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Farmers call for new players in cotton sector



COTTON farmers have called for the introduction of more companies in the sector to compete with the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) which is yet to pay for crop delivered in 2020 despite several promises.

They hope the move will improve the delivery of services and bring competition in an industry dominated by Cottco, which is majority owned by  the government.

The government promised to release funds by the middle of this month for the payment of farmers who delivered last year’s crop, but the money has not been processed.

Moses Dube, a long-time cotton farmer in Gokwe, told The NewsHawks that there is need for the introduction of new players in the industry who will challenge Cottco.

He said the move would definitely improve the delivery of services to farmers, compared to the current scenario where farmers can go for a year without being paid for delivered crop.

“The major cause of our problems is that we are having a single company which is dominating the cotton industry. At times farmers are left with no choice but to enter into contract with Cottco despite challenges. We went back to the field using funds sourced elsewhere since we are yet to be paid for what we produced last year. They are relaxed because there is no competition and it is our hope that if the industry is liberalised they will improve their services,” said Dube.

Tsitsi Musikavanhu, a farmer from Chipinge, said the industry will be better with more players like what used to happen in the past. She said other players are capable of paying cash in US dollars for cotton delivered, but most of the companies moved out due to unfair practices by the state which favours Cottco. She said even if they are paid now for crop delivered last year, the money has been eroded by inflation.

“Some few years back, we used to choose between Cottco and other players but as we speak there is only one company dominating. The few who are still around are either owned or linked to government officials and they are offering the same poor services with Cottco. Cotton is the crop of choice to me and as a single parent l educated all my children through the crop, but l am now struggling to survive,” said Musikavanhu.

Cotton Producers and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Stewart Mubonderi told The NewsHawks the introduction of more players will be a good move for the cotton industry. He however said the companies should be able to supply farmers with all required inputs like Cottco is doing.

“New players are welcome into the industry but the companies should be able to sponsor farmers with all inputs like what is being done by Cottco. We used to have many players but most of them were not faithful, they only give unfulfilled promises and only resurface when it is time to buy cotton. They should come in faith following regulations in the industry,” said Mubonderi.

Cottco board chairman Sifelani Jabangwe said the government has secured  ZW$1.5 billion to pay farmers for cotton delivered in 2020. He said the money will be used to clear arrears owed to farmers as most of them were paid half of their dues in the form of groceries.

“As announced by minister of Finance, government has secured the funds and we are only waiting for logistics on how to disburse it to farmers. Most of our farmers requested for groceries and their request was fulfilled. The delay was caused by problems which were being faced by EcoCash last year,” said Jabangwe.

The NewsHawks also established that despite failing to pay farmers, Cottco is also yet to pay service providers like transporters who were contracted by the company last year. 
Some transporters said their trucks are grounded after developing mechanical faults which they cannot repair since they are yet to be paid. 

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