Net effect of drought on Zim’s cotton sector

Word From The Market with Tapiwa Mutonda ZIMBABWE’S 2023/2024 cotton marketing season commenced last week. This comes against the backdrop of the El Niño-induced drought, which led to reduced cotton yields and quality. The cotton marketing season will last for a month. The cropping season was challenging; it was characterised by late and a false […]

Net effect of drought on Zim’s cotton sector

Word From The Market with Tapiwa Mutonda

ZIMBABWE’S 2023/2024 cotton marketing season commenced last week.

This comes against the backdrop of the El Niño-induced drought, which led to reduced cotton yields and quality.

The cotton marketing season will last for a month.

The cropping season was challenging; it was characterised by late and a false start of the rains, followed by prolonged dry spells.

Even though cotton is regarded as a drought-tolerant crop, the value chain is feeling the effect of erratic rains experienced in the last summer cropping season.

This adversely affected the expected total production, as well as cotton quality.

Drought has a significant impact on cotton production in Zimbabwe; it affects various aspects, from crop growth to the overall economy. It leads to water stress, which directly impacts the growth and development of the cotton plant.

Insufficient water supply during critical growth stages, such as flowering and boll formation, can result in reduced yields.

For 2024, 40 000 tonnes of cotton are expected, according to the latest Crop, Livestock and Fisheries Assessment report.

This is a substantial decline, compared to over 90 000t realised last year.

Heat stress can affect the quality of cotton fibres. It leads to shorter and weaker fibres. It is not surprising that the bulk of this year’s seed cotton will fall into lower grades, as it is discoloured.

The amount of leaf trash is usually high whenever prolonged dry spells are experienced, especially at the tail-end of the season. This is one of the factors that reduces the overall market value of cotton. Dry conditions usually lead to increased pest infestations. This is so because some pests thrive in hot and dry environments.

This has negatively affected the quality and market value of cotton.

Cotton farming is a major source of livelihoods for over 1,3 million people in Zimbabwe. Approximately 75 percent of income in cotton-producing areas is derived from the white gold. The value chain employs approximately 60 000 individuals in ginneries, spinning, transportation and logistics.

Drought leads to crop failure, resulting in loss of income for thousands of farmers.

This economic impact extends to reduced purchasing power and increased poverty levels in rural areas.

Cotton is a significant cash crop for Zimbabwe, contributing to both local and national economies.

Reduced cotton production, as is the case this year, leads to lower export volumes and reduced foreign exchange earnings.

This can have broader economic implications, affecting national revenue and economic stability. Agriculture, including cotton production, contributes significantly to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product.

A decline in seed cotton production — as experienced this year — reduces the overall agriculture sector’s contribution to the national economy. This ultimately affects overall economic growth.

Way forward

Drought conditions challenge farmers to be innovative; that they should adopt sustainable agricultural practices.

For instance, conservation agriculture techniques (Pfumvudza/Intwasa) and growing drought-resistant crop varieties become essential. The Government has been promoting the adoption of more resilient crops, such as sesame, sorghum, millet and sunflower. Alternatively, farmers can diversify crops to reduce reliance on cotton so that their livelihoods are not severely affected by erratic weather patterns.

In conclusion, the impact of drought on cotton farming in Zimbabwe has been severe.

The dry spell has led to reduced yields and poor-quality seed cotton. Adaptive strategies, therefore, need to be implemented.

Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts in promoting sustainable agricultural practices, improving water management and supporting the farming community in building resilience against climate variability.

 Tapiwa Mutonda is an agricultural quality inspector with the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA). Word From The Market is a column produced by AMA to promote market-driven production. Feedback: cchiduku@ama.co.zw or WhatsApp/Call +263781706212.

 

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