Sukoluhle Ndlovu, Midlands Correspondent
COTTON farmers in Gokwe say the Government should assist them in setting up mini-ginneries in respective farms and communities to add value to their produce which is being looted by cotton contractors who only leave them paltry payments.
Speaking on the sidelines of a face- to-face meeting with cotton companies organised by the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) and stakeholders at Gokwe Hotel recently, Gokwe Cotton Farmers Association chairman, Mr Raphael Muchuchu said cotton ginners (contractors) were playing “God” being the determinants of cotton prices, which are exploitative, regardless of the world market prices and the inputs used.
“These people (cotton companies) decide on everything; they determine the price just for their own benefit and don’t care whether the farmers make a profit or not. Farmers are actually not selling their cotton; instead it is bought by the contractors at whatever prices they wish. If the world market prices increase they don’t relay the benefits to the farmer so that they keep exploiting our farmers and they will be making a killing,” he said.
Muchuchu says the solution to avert such complications is for Government to take a leaf from the Eastern countries where farmers have their own small ginneries at their premises to process the crop which gives them maximum value of their product.
“Like what is happening in Pakistan, Australia, India and other Eastern countries, farmers should be afforded an opportunity to add value to their products. For starters on a test basis, as they are doing Command Farming Government should provide a few farmers with those small ginneries with all the inputs and let’s see what happens, I tell you Gokwe and the cotton farming industry will change,” said Muchuchu.
“There is no product in the world that pays as much as cotton, all the minerals you can think of, their prices may fall, be it gold or diamonds but cotton will always pay but that benefit is cut off from farmers by these middlemen; tell me in the world, which country doesn’t dress? That’s why they called it the ‘white gold’,” he added.
During the meeting farmers complained that cotton contractors were not giving them enough fertilisers and chemicals are not disbursed in time which leaves their crop exposed the pests which extensively affects productivity.
They also expressed disgruntlement with the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) saying it is interfering with farmers’ efforts to add value to their produce as in one time a whole truck load of cotton set for rented ginneries in Norton for processing was confiscated and never recovered.
During the meeting, farmers said there more than six Cotton contracting companies and competing among themselves which is costing farmers as they want to contract more farmers but failing to give them adequate inputs which affects production.
They said where farmers supplement with their own inputs, these contractors do not care as long as they have contracted them, they want the entire produce at pathetic prices which are determined after the cotton has been taken, leaving most farmers at a loss as they pay peanuts.