Editor's Comment

Farmers should heed Scott’s advice

FARMERS should heed Vice President Guy Scott’s advice to grow more cotton to boost their incomes and increase the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
Despite some challenges besetting the subsector, cotton farming remains a lucrative business that can change the lives of the farmers if they manage it properly.
As the Vice President said cotton has the potential to generate a lot of foreign exchange through exports.
Equally, tobacco is a money spinner with the potential to reduce rural poverty if small scale farmers have the right knowledge, skills and resources to grow the cash crop.
Dr Scott bemoaned the fact that Zambia is growing only a paltry 30,000 metric tonnes of tobacco per year when it can do much better.
The government has identified cotton as a potential tool for poverty alleviation and has included it on the list of seed to be given to the beneficiaries of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
With the necessary financial and technical support farmers can grow significant quantities of the two crops, which they can export with the help of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU).
Unfortunately, the marketing of the crops has been fraught with problems.
The local buyers want to buy the commodities at give-away prices, which will leave the poor farmers without a profit.
Sometimes cotton and tobacco farmers have languished in Lusaka for weeks because the companies that are expected to buy their produce have been reluctant to buy it.
In some cases this has been caused by disagreements between the farmers and the buyers.
This has made the farming of the two crops less attractive.
There is need for the government and the ZNFU to work together to help the farmers access the market for their produce.
Cotton and tobacco fetch higher process than food crops, which is why farmers should be encouraged to producing them.
We are happy that the government is already considering supporting farmers so that they can not only earn income for themselves but boost the country’s foreign exchange coffers.
Lack of a reliable market for the two crops seems to be at the centre of their ability to attract more farmers.
The small-scale farmers do not have the capacity to export their cotton and tobacco.
They have to see the commodities to the big companies which have the money and technical capacity to export the commodities and earn a lot of money at the expense of the poor farmers.
So as the government encourages the farmers to grow more cotton and tobacco it should also address the hitches in the marketing of the crops.
It would be sad if he farmers rose to the challenge and grew more cotton and tobacco only to get stuck with their commodities or earn far too little from their sale.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock should take Dr Scott’s challenge to the farmers and help sort out the problems in the often chaotic marketing of the two crops.
This will motivate more farmers to venture into the production of cotton and tobacco.
There is also a need to intervene in the pricing of the commodities.
It will also encourage those who are already producing the crops to increase the hectares.
This will also help the country to diversify from the current heavy dependence on maize production.
We are confident that the problems currently dogging the marketing of cotton and to tobacco will be sorted out so that farmers can heed the Vice President’s call.

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