Some cotton farmers in the country have said the current minimum price for cotton is not cost-effective as it fails to meet the high cost of inputs.
Government recently announced K389 per kilogramme (kg) for grade A and K310 per kg for grade B as the minimum farm-gate prices for cotton this year.
One of the farmers from Balaka, Edith James, said most people planted Chureza which was promoted by the Malawi-Cotton Company (MCC) because they could not afford the hybrid seed which was selling at K16 000 per kg.
She said: “Chureza is largely responsible for the low cotton production in Malawi. I failed to plant one hectare because I had no seed. Government should set prices that will compensate farmers for their hard work.”
Joseph Kamwendo of Senzani Cotton Farmers Club in Ntcheu said the minimum price is unrealistic and will discourage farmers from growing cotton next season. He suggested that the farm-gate price for all grades of cotton be pegged at K400 per kg.
Cotton Council of Malawi (CCM) executive director Cosmas Luanda, while confirming that Chureza cotton variety was not productive in Malawi and that it was banned by government, said the farmers’ perception is wrong because the gross margin price was calculated with cost of hybrid seed fully factored in.
He said: “Price determination of any crop is a function of both cost of production as well as demand and supply.”
MCC field manager McDonald Mhango observed that cotton prices in Malawi have been good for the past five years compared to neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe where the price hovers around K250 per kg.
“The hybrid seed is imported from India, it’s expensive. MCC distributed free Chureza seed to 18 000 farmers in all its zones and what is lacking among the farmers is maximising production per unit area,” he said.
Since 2009, cotton has been the country’s fourth largest export product accounting for 4.1 percent of total export.