Cotton output set to rise

GLOBAL cotton output is projected to increase by 10%, reaching an estimated 25 million tonnes during the 2017/18 cropping season, a recent report on world production trends shows.

By Tinashe Kairiza

Cotton production in Zimbabwe increased last season after decades of decline.

According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee, China remains the world’s largest cotton producing country while Burkina Faso is the top producer of the crop in Africa. Zimbabwe is ranked number 28 out of 77 leading cotton producing countries in the world.

In Zimbabwe, production of the crop, which rose to 110 000 tonnes last season after decades of rapid decline, is also expected to grow, spurred by cheap inputs being extended to farmers by government.
Global land area put under cotton is also forecast to grow, on the back of relatively stable prices on the international market, popularly known as the Cot look A Index.

During the 2016/17 marketing season, cotton prices on the Cot look A Index averaged between US66 cents and US88 cents per pound (453 grammes). Last season, Zimbabwe put close to 155 000 hectares of land under cotton, up from 105 000 hectares during the previous summer cropping period.

In a report on global production trends released this month, the International Cotton Advisory Committee forecasts the largest output growth margins to be driven by the USA.

“World cotton production is projected to increase by 10% during 2017/18 reaching 25,4 million tonnes. Production is projected to increase in all other major producing countries during 2017-18, including India, China, Pakistan, Brazil, Francophone Africa and Turkey.

“Higher cotton prices during 2016/17 and better cotton price ratios to other competing crops during 2017 planting campaign resulted in expansion of cotton area by an estimated three million hectares to over 32 million hectares,” the International Cotton Advisory Committee said.

As a result of increasing global output, world cotton ginnery (mill) use will also increase to 25,2 million tonnes during the 2017/18 season, indicating a 2,7% increase from the previous cropping period.

World cotton trade for the next marketing season is projected to remain stable at eight million tonnes, with the USA accounting for about 40% of global exports.

Bangladesh will remain the largest importer in 2017/18, accounting for an estimated 18% of world imports.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Crop Specialist Simbarashe Muchena said output in the country and in most African countries will be propelled by government subsidised inputs. “In Zimbabwe, output is increasing not necessarily because of growing world demand but due to availability of free inputs from government. It is the norm for governments to subsidise cotton farmers — it is happening even in the US and West Africa,” Muchena said, noting that output growth being experienced by the southern African country was happening at a time when private players were withdrawing from financing production of the crop.

Cotton production in Zimbabwe declined to an all-time low of 32 000 tonnes in 2016, from 84 000 tonnes in 2015, and 143 000 tonnes in 2014, after a decade long spell of perceived lower prices averaging US$0,30 per kilogramme.

Over the last decade, traditional cotton growing farmers have been migrating to produce crops whose prices have been firming on the international market such as tobacco. Higher production costs, coupled with low producer prices have severely impacted on cotton production in Zimbabwe.

This has taken a knock on downstream industries, particularly the clothing sector, which is currently importing about half of its fabric requirements.

The closure of David Whitehead in 2001, once Zimbabwe’s largest textile firm, with a staff compliment of about 2 000 employees mostly from the Midlands province, has been cited by market watchers as one of the factors explaining the drop in cotton production.

In 2016, a judicial manager overseeing the rehabilitation of David Whitehead projected that at least US$50 million was required to resuscitate the textile firm.

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