Organic cotton farmers living big in Simiyu due to reliable market

03Dec 2019
Francis Kajubi
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Organic cotton farmers living big in Simiyu due to reliable market

A reliable market offering premium prices is allowing organic cotton farmers in Simiyu region to live big with modern houses, keeping livestock and affording a decent life which they peers have failed to exercise.

Simiyu region has over 2,000 organic cotton farmers who sell their commodity to a private company, BioRe Tanzania Limited which offers them between 1,250/- and 1,350/- per kilogram compared to 1,200/- which their peers who cultivate conventional cotton earn.

Speaking to Smart Money on the sidelines of a National Ecological Organic Agriculture conference held in Dodoma last week, Donald Jilyabilu said since 2004 when he joined organic cotton farming, his life has changed for the better.

“While some conventional cotton farmers in Shinyanga and Simiyu regions complain against delayed payments for their commodity of the season, I am happy because my money was deposited in my account the day I sold the cotton,” said Jilyabilu.

“I used to harvest 70 to 80 kilograms of conventional cotton per acre but since 2004 when I switched to organic farming am harvesting on average of 145kgs per acre,” the 49 year old farmer bragged saying switching to organic cotton was the best decision that he ever made.

Apart from increasing his acreage due to attractive prices, Jilyabilu has also witnessed his income increase on an annual basis thanks to appreciating prices. “When I joined organic farming, premium for a kilo was 50/-, then it jumped to 65/-, 80/- and this year will even be higher.

The premium is calculated once every five years,” he added. BioRe Tanzania Limited’s CEO, Marco Paul said since its inception in 1994, the company has been buying organic cotton from farmers whose numbers have increased from a few hundreds then to over 2,300 in Simiyu region alone.

“The buying price for organic cotton in this year’s season was 1,253/- compared to 1,200/- and below that conventional farmers sold their cotton per kilogram. The good thing with organic farmers is market security, they are sure of the market for their commodity,” Paul said.

He said during this year’s season that ended in September, his company purchased 5.3 million kilograms of organic cotton from farmers who were paid immediately upon delivery of the commodity to the company.

The BioRe CEO further pointed out that after processing the raw cotton, his company exports the commodity to Portugal, India, Japan while smaller amounts are sold to local textile manufacturers including Sunflag Tanzania Limited based in Arusha.

According to Textile Exchange, a global non for profit organization’s Organic Cotton Market Report 2018, Tanzania produces four per cent of the global volumes.

The report stated that in 2016/17, global organic cotton production reached 117,525 metric tons of fiber, representing a ten percent growth.

“This stems, for the most part, from China, fuelled by growing demand both from the organic dairy industry and the domestic textile sector. Other countries that contributed significantly to the growth include Tanzania, Uganda, Benin, Turkey, and the USA,” read the report.

According to Ministry of Agriculture, in 2017, the sector provided employment to 65.5 percent, contributing approximately 28.7 percent of gross domestic product while the crop sub-sector contributed 16.58 percent.

In the first quarter of 2018, the growth of the sector was 7.1 percent and was fueled by the government’s efforts to ensure availability and use of better inputs, better rainfall and improved infrastructure.

According to Bariadi District Commissioner, Festo Kiswaga his district earned on average 50bn/- every season from cotton sales.

Bariadi produces 45 million kilograms of cotton per annum. “Organic farming is very important in achieving the industrialization agenda especially in cash crops such as cotton, tea and coffee.

In Bariadi there are ten wards that practice organic farming effectively,” Kiswaga said noting that production of organic cotton earned his district 60bn/- this year.

According to Minister of Agriculture, Japhet Hasunga said his ministry is looking forward to submit a proposal for the amendment of the National Agriculture Policy of 2013 to, among other things, recognize organic agriculture.

“I call upon stakeholders to highlight priorities concerning organic agriculture to be included in the new policy. The policy draft will be presented in the national assembly next February,” Hasunga said. In 2019/20, Cotton Board of Tanzania plans to increase cotton production from 222,000 metric tons to 700,000 tons with production per acre increasing from 300 to 600 tons.