Government of Malawi says it is looking at cotton as the main foreign earner to replace tobacco which is facing hard times from worldwide tobacco ban resulting in it fetching less money from sales.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa at the official launch of the cotton production campaign for the 2019/20 season said K1.0 billion has been allocate to the help boost the cotton production in the country.
Nakhumwa announced that this growing season’s minimum cotton farm gate price will be K375.00 per kilogramme.
He explained development of the cotton subsector is at the heart of government as it directly impacts over 300,000 farmers who rely on cotton for their income and livelihoods in the major cotton growing districts in the country.
He acknowledged demand for tobacco is globally declining due to the antismoking lobby being championed by World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Last week the US government one of the major importers of Malawi tobacco announced that it had halted imports sighting use of forced child labour.
“There will come a time in future when tobacco may not be fetching enough for the development of this country. There is therefore, need, for Malawi to diversify into other cash crops and products in order to attain economic stability and sustainability,” he said.
The purpose of the campaign is to improve the wellbeing of smallholder cotton farmers and contribute to the country’s economic growth. Specifically, the program aims to: Increase cotton productivity through use of high yielding cotton varieties and recommended pesticides as well as foliar fertilizer.
Additionally the campaign aims to increase the number of smallholder farmers growing the crop and incomes thereby contributing to poverty reduction and enhance national export earnings through increased exports of cotton lint and other cotton products
Cotton is the country's fourth major foreign exchange earner for several years after Tobacco, Tea and Sugar and its immediate potential to impact Malawi’s economic growth for several reasons includes; the creation of more jobs if the integrated cotton value chain is revived and becomes more vibrant. This includes ginning the lint, yarn manufacturing, weaving, cotton textiles, oil and animal feed processing.
Despite these potential benefits, national cotton production has experienced low production levels in the recent years therefore making the crop less attractive for investment by garments and textile industries.