Turning around cotton production possible in Tanzania

03Jun 2016
Daniel Semberya
The Guardian
Turning around cotton production possible in Tanzania

THE renewed emphasis on industrialisation was evident in the sustainable industrial development agenda, launched in 1996 to cover the period up to 2020, as well as Vision 2025,

launched in 1999-which recognized the leading role that industry should play in transforming the Tanzanian economy on the way to becoming a semi-industrialised country by 2025.

Speaking early this week during the launch of the Global Commercialisation of Biotech crops 1996 to 2015, and Biotech Highlights in 2015, Director of Information and Documentation Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology DR.

Nicholas Nyange told this paper that in order to live the slogan of President John Magufuli, who wants to make Tanzania become one of the giant industrial countries in the world, more efforts need to be done by both the government and other key players.

Dr Nyange said “If we really want to live and practice the worlds of our president, of transforming the Tanzanian economy to become a semi-industry, especially cotton industries that mainly depend on cotton as their main raw material-then the introduction of Bt Cotton technology is inevitable.”

He further noted that if the government could allow its researchers to introduce the Bt cotton technology in the country, farmers would produce enough cotton for local industries and for export.

You see in the 1960s and 1970s, countries like China, India and Pakistan, were less developed in as far as cotton industries are concerned. They were like Tanzania. But after starting planting Bt cotton in their countries, they are now the leading cotton producers and exporters in the world. And their cotton industries are flourishing because they have enough cotton raw materials.

“A big percent of the clothes we import from those countries are made of Bt Cotton. And our continuing of importing clothes from those countries, would lead to the killing of our own cotton,’ he noted..

He said it was high time for Tanzania to borrow a leaf from these countries by accepting the cultivation of Bt cotton in the country that would be an advantageous not only to cotton farmers, but would also boost the country’s economy.

If allowed in the country, Bt cotton would revamp the production of abundant cotton which is currently in the verge of dying a natural death, in cotton producing areas, like the Lake Zone Regions. And their major concern is that unlike those days, nowadays, cotton cultivation does not pay.

Those cotton farmers claim that some time a farmer can spend up to one million shilling in preparations of a cotton farm to harvesting period, but at the end he can get even less money compared the actual operation costs.

According the latest launched report, since 1996, 2 billon hectares of arable land – a massive area more than twice the landmass of China or the United States – have been planted with biotech crops.

Additionally, it is estimated that farmers in up to 28 countries have reaped more than US$150 billion in benefits from biotech crops since 1996. This has helped alleviate poverty for up to 16.5 million small farmers and their families annually totaling about 65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world.

“More farmers are planting biotech crops in developing countries precisely because biotech crops are a rigorously-tested option for improving crop yields,” said Clive James, founder and emeritus chair of ISAAA, who has authored the ISAAA report for the past two decades.

“Despite claims from opponents that biotechnology only benefits farmers in industrialized countries, the continued adoption of the technology in developing countries disproves that” James added.
Annually, up to 18 million farmers, 90 percent of whom were small, resource-poor growers in developing countries, benefited from planting biotech crops from 1996 to 2015.

“China is just one example of biotechnology’s benefits for farmers in developing countries. Between 1997 and 2014, biotech cotton varieties brought an estimated $17.5 billion worth of benefits to Chinese cotton farmers, and they realized $1.3 billion in 2014 alone,” explained ISAAA Global Coordinator, Randy Hautea.

Also in 2015, India became the leading cotton producer in the world with much of its growth attributed to biotech Bt cotton. India is the largest biotech cotton country in the world with 11.6 million hectares planted in 2015 by 7.7 million small farmers. In 2014 and 2015, an impressive 95 percent of India’s cotton crop was planted with biotech seed; China’s adoption in 2015 was 96 percent.

Farmers, who are traditionally risk-averse, recognise the value of biotech crops, which offer benefits to farmers and consumers alike, including drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, and increased nutrition and food quality. Moreover, biotech crops contribute to more sustainable crop production systems that address concerns regarding climate change and global food security,” explained Hautea.