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May 26, 2010

Cotton farmers Zimbabwe halt harvesting over low price

Cotton farmers in Zimbabwe's Mashonaland Central province are refusing to harvest the crop in protest against low prices being offered on the local market.

Farmers in the Muzarabani and Mt Darwin areas had not started harvesting although the crop was ready for picking. The farmers are also refusing cotton bags from ginning companies, saying accepting them would compel them to sell.

Cotton companies are offering US$0,30 per kg, a price which farmers are arguing is not viable. Farmers are demanding more than US$0,30, while ginners insist that paying more than that is unsustainable.

"We would rather leave the crop to rot in the fields than sell at the price that ginners are offering," said one of the farmers.

Cotton should be sold with moisture content of at least 12 percent and delaying to sell after harvesting compromises quality.

The farmers say it was time they realised positive gains from the crop, which had not been providing meaningful returns in recent years when the country was experiencing hyper-inflation.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union operations manager Ms Theresa Makomva said it was time farmers formed strong commodity associations to improve their bargaining power.

"Commodity associations are crucial for the emancipation of farmers. If farmers are not united, those who purchase their produce will continue to rip them off," she said.

Ms Makomva said the associations should have structures starting from ward to national level, to give farmers maximum representation.

Meanwhile, ZFU field manager Mr Aaron Dondofema encouraged farmers to pick the cotton and stock it since they were not ready to sell.

"We are not saying sell or do not sell the crop at a price you do not want, but it is not good for the cotton to remain in the field," he said.

 New Ziana.

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