The country’s cotton production is likely to decline if smallholder farmers refrain from tilling the crop, saying they are not gaining from their labour as a result of poor prices, The Guardian has learnt.
Speaking with our reporter over the phone, Kamuli Gugu small-scale farmer from Busega district, Simiyu region said that time has come for them to quit as they have no control over the crop’s price.
“It takes time, money and energy yet you reap little and the government has got no plans to improve the situation. I just sold my cotton simply because I needed the money for my family’s survival, otherwise I wouldn’t sell anything,” Gugu lamented.
He added: “Our leaders tried hard to help us, but they failed. We incur costs from when we begin tilling the ground to planting and harvesting the crop. We thought we would reap benefits from our produce, but I don’t see much of a future.”
Legislators from the cotton growing regions rallying behind their farmers had proposed that the new purchase price for the crop should not be less than 1000/- per kg, but the crop is being sold at between 500/- and 660/- per kilogramme.
Gugu who represents fellow farmers in Busega Village said they are currently seeking advice on which way to go, as depressed prices in the world market have hit them hard.
For his part, Bundala Majambo small farmer in Solima Village, Busega district said he is thinking of taking up fishing, although he is also not sure of success since catches in Lake Victoria have also declined.
“I am no longer interested in cotton farming, I am seriously thinking of taking up fishing where I can make some money, though the catch has declined,” he said.
Majambo explained that he was disappointed at the price of 660/- per kilo offered by cotton buyers, which drastically cut his earnings...“I cultivated two hectares, having in mind that I would earn not less than 1.3m/-, yet I have earned only 400,000/-.”
He counted it as a loss since he failed to redeem his costs which went into leasing the land, hiring a tractor, buying seeds, fertiliser and pesticides.
Another small farmer Tatu Iddy from Mwamachibya village also in Busega district had this to say: “I am totally disappointed and I really don’t want any one mentioning the crop as it has really hurt me badly. I used the little money I had, thinking that I would reap profits, but the story has been quite the opposite.”
Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) Managing Director Marco Mtunga one time told our reporter that ups and downs of the price are a result of world market dynamics characterised by supply and demand.
According to him, last year the price of a kilo of cotton in the world market stood at USD1.45 which made it possible for farmers to sell their cotton at 1,100/-. The sudden drop of the price to USD0.83 cents has dealt a big blow to them.
TCB projected that world cotton production for the 2012/2013 season stands at 27million tonnes in addition to current stocks of about 13 million tonnes. Consumption stands at 23 million tonnes annually, making it difficult to tell when the price of the crop is likely stabilise.
At such a rate of consumption rate, the world would have 17 million tonnes in stock, 30 percent higher than the present stock of 13million tonnes. TCB boss further explained that only 30 percent of the country’s cotton produced is sold internally, while the rest is exported. This would, consequently, affect a big number of the farmers, he said.
When interviewed recently (not by The Guardian) in Mwanza, George Mpanduji, Secretary General of Tanzania Cotton Growers Association (TACOGA) was quoted as saying: “I myself grow cotton but if I was to properly consider all costs which includes labour and time spent, I would hardly continue growing the crop,” he said.
TACOGA boss added: “The majority farmers perceived cotton farming as profitable due to improper costing, with only inputs, seeds and pesticides taken as costs, while excluding family labour and time.