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Cotton farmers need more support

BY: Daily Graphic

Cotton is a major cash crop cultivated in many parts of the globe, including Ghana. It is a soft, stable fibre shrub native to tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world, including the Americas, India and Africa.

In Africa, the export of raw cotton is occasioned by the absence of any significant domestic textile industry to add value to the cotton grown by the numerous smallholder farmers and the need to earn foreign exchange.

As a form of employment, farmers, mostly in the three northern regions, engage in the production of cotton to increase their incomes.

Large-scale cotton production by the then Cotton Development Board of the Ministry of Agriculture started in 1968, long after many countries in West Africa, such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire had done so.

The successes achieved in these countries in terms of production continue to serve as benchmarks for Ghana. For instance, while Ghana only managed to produce 36,000 tonnes of seed cotton in 2006/7, Burkina Faso produced a colossal 700,000 tonnes.

The fortunes of the Ghana Cotton Company Limited (GCCL) have drastically declined over the years due to both internal and external factors, including little attention paid by successive governments to the sector, the absence of subsidies for cotton farmers, high interest rates on loans for agriculture, poor loan recovery from farmers, mismanagement and, above all, a bearish world market price for the commodity.

The effect is that the once booming textile industry is now a pale shadow of itself. The few firms still in operation now must depend heavily on raw material imports. Cheap imported textile products price out those of local firms on the market.

The Daily Graphic, therefore, calls on the government to support the GCCL to deliver on its mandate.

We share in the concerns expressed by cotton farmers over the neglect of the sector by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture during the National Farmers Day.

This is because no mention was made at all about the contribution of cotton farmers to the economic development of the country, much less a category award in the awards scheme to recognise the contribution of cotton farmers.

We are also unhappy with the seeming neglect of the sector and call on the authorities to pay special attention to the sector in subsequent awards if this was an oversight.

As things stand now, the GCCL is not able to attract more outgrowers to feed it, while inadequate support to farmers, coupled with untimely delivery, negatively affects yields.

To support the cultivation of cotton in the country, we suggest the formation of cotton producer groups, the development of animal traction, pre-financing of farmers and subsidies on agricultural inputs to reduce cost of production.

As a long-term strategy, it is prudent to work towards the establishment of an autonomous sustainable revolving fund that will support the activities of cotton farmers.

The government will not only alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment if it revamps the cotton sub-sector; its decision and action will also be a right direction to diversify the economy.

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