Vendors duping farmers, buying crop at low prices

Some vendors in some cotton-growing districts have started buying the crop from unsuspecting farmers, taking advantage of the delayed opening of the 2017/18 marketing season.

Business News has established that vendors are buying cotton at as low as K250 per kilogramme (kg) against farmers’ proposed minimum buying price of K355 per kg, which government is yet to endorse, a situation that threatens the livelihoods of cotton farmers.

Farmers selling their cotton during last year’s marketing season

Last year, the minimum price for cotton was at K320 per kg, which was K55 less than what was offered the prior season.

In an interview yesterday, Cotton Farmers Association of Malawi (Cofam) president George Nnesa, while describing the situation as pathetic, said the delay by ginners to start buying the crop has triggered the situation.

“We were proposing K355 per kg as minimum price and we left it to government to endorse the same or make adjustments. We have been waiting to hear from the [Cotton] Council on the official minimum price by last week.

“But everything has delayed because even buyers cannot go ahead to start processing licences in the absence of the official minimum prices from government. Hence, vendors have started taking advantage of the same to exploit our farmers,” he said.

Cotton Council of Malawi executive director Cosmas Luwanda was yet to respond to our questions on the opening of the 2017/18 cotton marketing season.

However, he is on record as having said the council had engaged extension workers to assess the markets in readiness for the selling season expected to start mid-April.

Prior to the opening of the markets, Luwanda said they will conduct nationwide sensitisation meetings on their operations.

There are proposed 270 cotton marketing centres across the country, according to Cotton Council.

Figures from the council show that about 60 000 farmers have grown the crop, a rise from last year’s 30 000, but output is expected to be lower than expected due to pests which attacked cotton is some districts as a result of the dry spell.

Last year, output for the crop dropped by a third to 15 000 metric tons due to dry spell and poor loan input scheme.

Cotton, mainly grown by smallholder farmers, is the main cash crop for about 30 000 farm families.

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