By Tatenda Gono

As much as we do not give it much thought, the use of cotton in our daily lives is of much than what comes to mind. Cotton is the most used fiber in the world significance, from clothing to household items and not forgetting large production of industrial products which account for thousands of cotton bales.  The announcement by Cottco that the country is expecting an increased cotton yield this season is a positive development after marked decline in recent years.

Cotton farming received a major boost from the Presidential Well Wishers Input Scheme where cotton farmers across the country received inputs including seed and fertiliser towards the increased production of the crop. As nature would have it, the country received normal to above normal rainfall, thereby ensuring a good cotton harvest across the country.  According to current cotton crop assessment nationwide, a total of 150 000 to 200 000 metric tonnes can be reached surpassing the targeted 100 000, meaning that there is likely going to be a 100 percent surplus this farming season.

During his State of the Nation address, President Robert Mugabe highlighted that the availability of free cotton inputs to local farmers was part of the cotton resuscitation programme to restructure the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe.  Recently, beneficiaries of the Well Wishers Scheme indicated that government should declare cotton as a state commodity. The advantage of having cotton as a state commodity would result in other farmers benefitting in the next farming season. Government can also set floor prices towards the buying of cotton, so that farmers are paid a fair price for their produce, with minimal chances of farmers being duped by private players with the intention of shortchanging and sabotaging efforts to resuscitate Cottco and government efforts at large. This would also contribute towards Cottco regaining its status as the largest cotton processing and marketing organisation in Southern Africa.

The manufacturing industry sets to benefit from the increased cotton output, which can be set to revive mostly the clothing and textile industry, creating employment as well as increase in exports.  Manufacturing industry, once well performing, has the potential to earn the country a lot of revenue through exports.

Cotton is one of the most important and widely produced agricultural crops in the world. In addition, through the export of textiles, cotton contributes to broader national economic growth, as a result of the significant multiplier effects derived from employment and earnings in the manufacturing sector. Such contributions have become increasingly important for many developing countries where agriculture and manufacturing play an immense role towards economic development. In the long run, the country has the potential to realize every benefit that is accrued from the cotton plant.

The cotton plant itself in general is useful, from the seeds, the fiber or lint to the plant stem. In developed countries where there is access to advanced machinery and production equipment, the cotton plant is wholly put to use, with each part of the plant used to produce different products. The most important is the fiber or lint, which is used in making cotton cloth. Linter, which is the short fuzz on the seed, provides cellulose for making plastics, explosives and other products. Linters also are incorporated into high quality paper products and processed into batting for padding mattresses, furniture and automobile cushions. The cottonseed is crushed in order to separate its three products that are oil, meal and hulls. Cottonseed oil is used primarily for shortening, cooking oil and salad dressing. The meal and hulls that remain are used either separately or in combination as livestock, poultry and fish feed and as fertilizer. The stalks and leaves of the cotton plant are plowed under to enrich the soil.

What the country needs more at the moment is a viable agriculture and manufacturing industry that presents opportunities in employment creation, reviving the economy and contributing towards the GDP. Already, the positive results from this farming season will see a lot of other farmers participating in the next farming season. Agriculture has been the backbone on which our economy relies on. It is important for citizens to participate in the agriculture sector, with the government supporting farmers through such efforts as the Command Agriculture and Presidential Inputs Scheme.