New cotton farming season gets underway

23Nov 2017
The Guardian
New cotton farming season gets underway

The 2017/18 cotton farming season for the major cotton growing regions was officially launched this week with planting of the crop expected to end mid next month.

Called the Western Cotton Growing Area (WCGA), the zone comprises Mwanza, Simiyu, Shinyanga, Geita, Tabora, Mara, Singida, Kigoma, Kagera and Katavi regions.

Speaking at the launch of the new season on Monday in Igunga, Tabora, the Director General of Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB), Marco Mtunga, said there are sufficient seeds for all farmers in the country. According to him, 25,000 tonnes of seeds comprising 11,548 tonnes of the new variety UKM08 and 13,452 tonnes of UK91 have been set aside for distribution to farmers.

He said a total of 11,056 tonnes, which is equivalent to 70 per cent of the 15,694 tonnes of the initial seed allocation, had been distributed by November 12. Seed distribution started on September 15 and will be completed at the end of this month.

“It is estimated that, a total of 1.3 million acres of land will be planted with cotton this season. The government in collaboration with stakeholders has succeeded in reviving the seed multiplication system and its commitment to provide the new seed variety UKM08 by 2018/19 season to all farmers will be implemented as planned,” Mtunga noted in a statement.

He said the seed multiplication process starts at Ukiriguru Agricultural Institute (UARI) where breeder seeds are produced and subsequently planted at Nkanziga farm in Misungwi district where pre-basic seed is produced. Thereafter, he explained, the multiplication process continues by handing over the pre-basic seed to Quton Seed Company in Bariadi, Gaki Ginnery in Shinyanga and Mwabusalu Ward in Meatu to produce the basic seeds which are taken to Igunga district for further multiplication to produce certified seeds.

In the 2017/18 season a total of 11,548 tonnes of certified UKM08 seeds have been distributed to 34 districts out of the 48 districts growing cotton across the country.

TCB says the government is determined to improve cotton farming by increasing the use of delinted seeds to match the system that has been adopted by other cotton producing countries in the world. Tanzania targets to have all farmers in the country using delinted seeds by the 2018/19 season.

Mtunga said key benefits of delinted seeds include high germination rate, reduced seed rate (one acre requires only 6-kg to plant against 15 to 20kg of fuzzy seed) and simplification of planting through mechanized sowing.

The major problem currently affecting the cotton sector in Tanzania is lower productivity per acre whereas farmers are currently producing 300-kgs instead of 1,000-kgs when farmers observe good cotton farming practices.