Business sense needed from growers and government
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CTA. 2004. Business sense needed from growers and government. Rural Radio Resource Pack 04/5. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57415
Joseph Nkole of the Cotton Producers? Association of Zambia on the farmer practices and government policies needed to support the industry.
Business sense needed from growers and government Cue: If farming is to be a profitable business, and not just a subsistence activity, there are two issues that farmers will need to think about very carefully: how to maximise their yields, and how to get the best price possible for their crop. With a cash crop such as cotton, there may be some help available for them to do both things. In Zambia, for example, there are a number of cotton promoting companies that depend on farmers to supply high quality cotton for their textile plants. Dunavant, Clark Cotton and Mulungushi are three such companies operating in the country, that are helping farmers both to grow and sell cotton. Despite this, however, the Zambian textile industry is struggling, not least because of a tax system which favours imported cotton, and makes Zambian cotton too expensive for the local industry to buy. Joseph Nkole is the Executive Secretary of the Cotton Producers Association of Zambia. He believes strongly that the government should be supporting its domestic cotton producers through a better tax system. He also believes that Zambia should be exploiting the Africa Growth Opportunity Act, known as AGOA, in order to export more cotton products to the United States. Under AGOA, a range of commodities, including finished clothes, can be exported without duty to the American market. Mr Nkole spoke recently, to Chris Kakunta, about how he believes the Zambian cotton industry can be resuscitated, or brought back to life. Chris began by asking how the cotton promoting companies were helping farmers in Zambia to increase their cotton production. IN: ?These organise the small-scale ? OUT: ? getting Bt into this country.? DUR?N 5?08? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Mr Joseph Nkole of the Cotton Producers Association of Zambia was talking to Chris Kakunta. Transcript Nkole These organise the small-scale farmers into schemes that are provided with inputs for production. They go into providing extension services to the farmers and then they provide the market for the farmers. But what we are seeing as a base is to have now these farmers to be trained in the various skills. To have best practices where they are dealing with a particular promoter, not leapfrogging from one promoter to another and avoiding to pay back loans. We want the farmers to have good ethics, appreciate the sanctity of contracts, so that they can now start to do business on a business footing, so that they can grow into bigger entities and run business on their own. Kakunta How best can a small-scale farmer look after his or her cotton crop so that it gives maximum yield? Nkole Well principally the farmer must plant his cotton early, on time. He must weed his crop, he must control the pests and he must have the correct plant population. For me these are the four non-negotiables in cotton production and if a farmer handles those with optimum efficiency they are bound to get very good yields from a hectare of cotton. Kakunta Why do you think the yields are still low per hectare? Nkole I think some farmers want to grow cotton as a by the way crop after they have planted maize or they have grown other crops. Now we are trying to get the farmers to appreciate that cotton is a main crop that they must engage in, plant on time, manage properly and they will see the good yields coming through. It has been done in many places and we are just hoping that we can now spread this to all the parts of the country where cotton is being grown. Kakunta Zambia is part of the global village and obviously we have seen some cotton being imported into the country. Does that imported cotton affect the price of the local production and what are you doing to help the farmers have the better price? Nkole There are two issues here. One is the issue of second-hand clothing. Two is the issue of tax on raw cotton. Imported cotton is costing less to the textile industry than Zambian cotton because of the tax regime. And we have identified this with the ginners, and the Zambia National Farmers Union and we are trying to talk to the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and their counterparts in finance to see how best we can give the Zambian cotton a price good enough for export so that it competes with cottons coming from outside. Yes cotton from outside is cheaper and the only reason is truly due to the tax regime. If government decides to tackle the issue of internal taxation again the service-providing companies will pass the benefit to the farmers by increasing the price. On the other hand, we would also work as an association to lobby the promoting companies, to pay the farmers a price that is good enough. But for Zambia, really for the price to improve we must get our textile industry to process the cotton produced in this country into finished products. Then you can start to benefit even from AGOA and the price to the farmer will obviously be increased. And so we are saying let us get quickly to look at what is Mulungushi doing? What is Mukuba doing? What is Mulungushi-China doing? Let us get them to have to produce garments; then we can break into the AGOA. There is a lot of benefit in there. Our counterparts and colleagues in West Africa are benefiting from it and I think it is a question of time. Very soon we will have these meetings to discuss how the government can come in to help us resuscitate the textile industry and then see our lint being processed internally. Kakunta What about coming to Bt cotton? Do you think if a law was passed in Zambia to allow such cotton to be grown, as an association you would embrace it? And if you are going to embrace it, why? Nkole We would definitely want to work within the ambits of the law. What we are seeing is the benefit to the small cotton farmer, like the other colleagues in the region are getting. So if we were to say ?Yes?, we would say it would be a welcome idea because we stand to benefit as a nation by increased volumes. We are, in the meantime, collecting a lot of data and evidence to show that this has got advantage for us. And as I said, we will not fight the law. If the law of the land determines that we have no Bt cotton, we shall go by that. But as an association we would want to have further investigation and compare the advantages and disadvantages. And at the moment we are currently thinking that it would be worth our while to increase productivity, to increase profitability and enhance the standards of living of our smallholder cotton farmers by getting Bt cotton into this country. End of track