The Sunday News
Clinton Moyo, Farming Reporter
OVER 20 000 hectares will be put under cotton in the 2017/18 farming season in the Matabeleland region with more than 5 000 farmers already contracted by the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco).
Cottco Matabeleland area manager Mr Innoncent Ncube said a number of farmers have started cropping the white gold though most were being hampered from doing by erratic rains.
Cottco delivered the inputs under the 2017/18 Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
“Some farmers have started cropping the cotton, both in Matabeleland North and South provinces but some of them have not yet started because of the erratic rains especially in areas like Magwe District, where the area is yet to receive any meaningful rainfall,” said Mr Ncube.
He said Cottco was in the process of assessing the hectares that have been put under the white gold in the region.
“We have actually distributed seed and fertilisers to 5 615 farmers and we are yet to do a validation assessment to find out how many have actually planted. Our target for both provinces combined is 20 290 hectares,” said Mr Ncube.
However, a number of farmers who spoke to Sunday Business revealed that they had not yet been allocated Ammonium Nitrate (AN) a key fertiliser which enhances plant growth and provides a ready supply of nitrogen from which plants could be draw.
Mr Ncube acknowledged that some farmers were still to get their allocation of AN but hinted that the situation was being rectified.
“It’s true that some farmers did not get AN but we will be distributing it during our validation assessment. We will be giving those who have planted instead of wasting it on people who are likely not going to utilise it. The AN is there and it is plenty,” he said.
Umguza District Cottco representative Mr Mbongeleni Ndlovu said most farmers in his area of jurisdiction had planted the crop.
“In Umguza we have planted 170 hectares from the 200 hectares that we had targeted. This will be a huge increase because we haven’t planted for sometime,” he said.
Most farmers had abandoned growing cotton following a drastic drop of prices in the market to about 30 cents per kilogramme.
In Matabeleland most farmers had resorted to cropping other crops such as maize, paprika and groundnuts.
In 2016 the Government intervened by putting the crop under the Presidential Input Scheme which saw the production of cotton increase by 150 percent.
Last year the Government also further increased the land placed under cotton to 155 000 hectares up from 150 000 hectares farmed the previous year.