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September 19, 2010

Tanzania hopes to triple cotton output by adopting gene-modified seed

by Fred Ojambo

Tanzania will start growing genetically modified cotton and offer credit to farmers to almost triple the country’s output, the Tanzania Cotton Board said.

The legal framework to grow the genetically modified cotton strain, or BT, had been set up and trials would start “any time,” Marco Mtunga, a regulation officer at the Dar es Salaam- based board, said in mid-August.
Lint cotton output may rise to 260,000 metric tons in 2014-15 from an expected 90,000 tons this season through improved productivity, by extending credit to farmers and introducing contract farming.

“The timeline for introduction of BT has not been charted but the legal framework is in place,” he said. “Results from the pilot indicates that productivity will go up as farmers will receive inputs on credit, reliable extension services will be provided in collaboration of the private sector and the government.”

Cotton production is seen steady in the season that ends in March after falling from 123,000 in 2008-09 due to lower prices. Tanzania is Africa’s fifth-largest lint-cotton producer by volume, after Egypt, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Benin, according to 2007 statistics on the website of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Mtunga said commercial banks had agreed to offer loans for contract farming, and the government was finalizing plans to set up an agricultural bank.

As many as 500,000 Tanzanian farmers cultivate about 485,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of cotton in the country’s northern, coastal and western regions, according to the board. The country grows the medium fiber variety of the crop.

BT cotton is a genetically modified strain that produces toxins lethal to bollworms, a serious threat to crops.


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