At least 250 farmers groups in the districts of Lamwo, Kitgum, Agago and Pader will not grow organic cotton in 2014 unless incentives are offered.
The groups, under East Acholi Cooperative Union, say they abolished the cultivation of the labour intensive variety citing low yields and decline in demand. The other reasons are the high prevalence of pests and insects that destroy the crop.
Obote Acellam Karl Mark, the Manager of East Acholi Cooperative Union, says the farmers are concentrating all their efforts on the more profitable production of conventional cotton instead.
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Obote says farmers get up to 1,000kgs in an acre of well managed conventional cotton compared to only 300kgs in the same acreage of organic cotton. Production of organic cotton in Northern Uganda began from Lango in 1994 before it was rolled out to Acholi sub region in 2008 following the return of peace.
The objective was to try and increase the production of organic cotton which was on high demand on the world market
Obote Acellam says the number of organic cotton farmers was fast declining from 78,770 in 2008/2009 agriculture year to only 44,076 in 2009/2010. Similarly, the number of organic cotton exporters drastically dropped from six in 2007/2008 to only two in 2009/2010.
He says only 1,690 metric tons of cotton lint was exported in 2009/2010 compared to 2,955 metric tons in 2008/2009. He attributes the decline to stiff competition from other emerging cash crops such as Simsim that has gained very wide acceptance on the global market.
Obote is worried farmers will have to spend more money on inputs, labour and field management to gain profits now that the government has stopped supporting farmers with inputs. He says this might affect the production of the traditional cash crop unless the unit price of lint appreciates on the global market.
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Onenarach Johnson, the regional Manager of Rwenzori Cotton Ginners Company Limited, the leading cotton buyer in the region says to do better business; the company invests in some farm inputs to motivate farmers to continue producing. Onenarach says among the inputs are ox-ploughs, fertilizers and subsidized seed loans given to farmers at the beginning of farming season.
Jospeh Okema, a cotton farmer in Kitgum Matidi Sub County, says the exorbitant cost involved in cotton production is scaring away farmers who were sent to school with proceeds from the traditional cash crop. Okema is still willing to grow the crop despite low returns.