The continued plunge of cotton prices this year has riled growers in the Shire Valley districts of Chikhwawa and Nsanje who feel cheated and fear incurring losses.
Prices of the crop have gone down from the initial K100 per kilogramme (kg), at the opening of the sales in April, to around K70 per kilogramme, a 30 percent drop.
Government has put this yearâ€™s minimum prices at K78 per kg for grade A, K3 up from last yearâ€™s K75 per kg. Grade B is now put at K63 per kg, K7 down from last yearâ€™s K70 per kg threshold.
In interviews on Saturday, growers from Chikhwawa complained that the low prices buyers are offering would plunge them into poverty.
â€œWe depend on the crop for our livelihood. As you know, most of the food crops here do not do well because of dry spells. This means that when the prices go down, we suffer a lot,â€ said Alusi Jofilisi, a grower from the district.
She claimed the prices have gone down because the buyers are taking advantage of the fund government allocated in the 2011/12 budget to access cotton inputs on loan.Â
Buoyed by good prices last year that peaked at as high as K200 per kg, more than 200 000 cotton farmers grew the crop largely propelled by a K1.6 billion fund set up by government in the 2011/12 season to generate about $300 million (K75 billion) foreign exchange.
Another farmer, Madi Damison, called on the government to intervene, saying cotton is the only crop they depend on for survival.
â€œOur future depends on the crop. We sell the crop to generate money to buy food and other basic needs,â€ he said.
Concerned with the low prices growers are being offered, Member of Parliament (MP) for Chikhwawa Central Bernadetta Mlaka Maliro on Saturday addressed the concerned farmers to assure them that prices will improve.
She said she has talked to one of the ginners, Cotton Ginners Africa Limited, which has agreed to buy at K110 per kg, a price the growers are happy with.
â€œThe growers here depend on the crop to raise the money to buy maize. If we delay to have the cotton disposed of, the price of maize will go up to unsustainable levels which will increase the levels of poverty in the district,â€ she said.
The MP said she has also talked to the Ministry of Agriculture officials to intervene so that growers get what they deserve.
Cotton Farmers Association (Cofam), a grouping of cotton growers in Malawi, has also complained about the low prices the farmers are being offered in most of the markets countrywide.
Last year, the prices opened at K120 per kg and peaked at as high at K200 per kg at the close of the market, a development that attracted more farmers to grow the crop this year.
In Balaka, Steve Dodoma, a member of Cofam said the situation is not pleasing at all.
â€œWe are hoping that government will intervene so that the prices go up and farmers reap benefits from their sweat,â€ he said.
Malawian cotton growers are feeling the pinch of the drop in global prices of lint by 53 percent to $1.90 per kg from last yearâ€™s $4 per kg due to oversupply of the crop.
This year, Malawi has produced 244 154 tonnes of the crop compared to 52 456, an increase of 365 percent.