FARMERS are slowly abandoning the cotton crop because of the unviable prices being offered by merchants.
Figures availed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development show that 43 643 hectares (ha) were put under cotton this summer cropping season compared to 74 446ha planted during the 2014/15 farming season.
In Gokwe North, which is the hub of cotton farming in the country, the area under cotton declined by over 42 percent from 41 720ha the previous season to 17 916ha planted so far this season.
Gokwe South has 25 655 ha, which has been planted against 32 130 ha planted the previous season.
With cotton being planted mainly in October up to mid November, there is no hope that the hectarage for the white gold would increase this year.
Cotton Producers and Marketers Association chairman, Clemence Gondo, said the reduction would force cotton merchants to offer better prices as there would be many merchants chasing the little crop that would be available.
“We are happy with what is happening in the cotton sector and that farmers have taken heed of our call to reduce hectarage because what was prevailing was tantamount to slavery,” said Gondo.
“In the previous years, we had a situation whereby the merchants literally ganged up to determine the price of cotton, which did not allow farmers to go back to the field,” Gondo said.
“The biggest loser in all this is government because thousands of jobs have been lost… We advised government to set the price of cotton or at least subsidise cotton growing, but to no avail,” he added.
Many farmers in Gokwe have resorted to growing other crops such as groundnuts and sweet potatoes, which also do quite well in the area.
The development comes as government announced new support for cotton farmers by availing cotton inputs to the growers.
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