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Web Exclusive | July 2017

$42-mn subsidy revives Zimbabwe cotton

Zimbabwe's cotton sector is going through revival following a $42 million input subsidy availed by the Government, which saw renewed interest in production from thousands of small scale farmers in major producing areas across the country. About 350 000 households received frees inputs from the Government, enough to establish a minimum hectarage of two. The scheme, which has a three year horizon started in 2015 and ends next year.

Last year, Zimbabwe produced about 30 000 tonnes of cotton, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, the lowest crop size in 24 years. The success of cotton in Zimbabwe was built around the Cottco inputs credit scheme which started in 1992 and ensured that farmers received adequate funding, agronomic support and quality incentives resulting in 95 percent of production coming through the contract scheme. However, the opening up of the sector to new players was the death knell for Zimbabwean cotton. From being one of global cotton's top quality producers the sector had virtually collapsed with production levels falling to less than 10 percent of normal volumes. Yields crashed, thereby killing off viability and increasing levels of side-marketing. This created a toxic downward spiral of low yields, high side marketing and low inputs support.

But, now some of the country's major cotton producing areas show vast tracts of land have been turned into "white fields."

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