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May 18, 2011

Burkina Faso cotton growers protest low prices

Hundreds of cotton farmers marched in Burkina Faso's second-largest city on April 27, demanding better prices for cotton and subsidies to help them ahead of the 2011-2012 planting season.

The march in Bobo-Dioulasso follows a wave of violent protests for higher pay by soldiers and demonstrations by angry students, business people and residents against rising food prices, police brutality and crime.

The previous week, Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore had sacked his government and named himself defence minister in a bid to quell the army dissent and popular unrest which has shaken the capital and outlying towns since mid-March.

Cotton is one of the major exports in the impoverished West African country that produced 363,000 tonnes of the crop during the 2009-2010 season. Its 337,556 tonnes for the 2010-2011 season fell short of the 450,000 tonnes target.

"We are asking the government to intervene so that the minimum price paid to farmers is at least 500 CFA Francs per kilogram," the farmers said in a declaration handed to the provincial governor in Bobo-Dioulasso, 350 km (271 miles) south west of the capital Ouagadougou.

The farmers said they were paid 160 CFA kg last year, while the price of cotton fibre on the world market had now risen to more than 2,000 CFA per kg.

They said they could guarantee a record production of 700,000 tonnes of cotton in 2011-2012 if their demands were met, but threatened to join the unrest jolting the country if they did not receive a higher price for their crop.

"If not, the country will witness a peasant revolt," the farmers said in the declaration.

Burkina Faso's cotton industry association which includes the nation's three largest cotton and textile industries, said the farmers' demands were unrealistic and it would pay them 245 CFA per kg this season.

"Their demands may be legitimate, but paying farmers 500 CFA per kg is unrealistic," said Ali Compaore, director of the Gourma cotton company.

Denis Mana, a cotton producer from the Bobo-Dioulasso region, said the cotton industry could suffer if farmers did not get what they wanted.

"We expect a positive response and if nothing is done, no cotton this year," said Mana.


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