By Huseyn Mbar
The Federal Government in September 2012 released N54 billion to boost mass production of cotton in the country.
A stakeholders’ workshop was also held in Kaduna, where experts brainstormed on how to revive moribund textile industries in the country.
Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan at the workshop, said that 200,000 hectares would be acquired for the cultivation of cotton.
The president also directed that improved cotton seeds should be distributed to farmers.
To further demonstrate its commitment to improve cotton production, the Federal Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the West African Cotton Company (WACOT) on plans to revive cotton production in the country.
Adesina, who spoke at the signing of the MoU, recalled that in the 1980s, Nigeria earned over 8.9 billion U.S. dollars from cotton.
He said that the amount then represented more than 25 per cent of the nation’s GDP, adding that the country’s earnings from cotton had dwindled to mere 300 million U.S. dollars.
The minister also said that the contribution of cotton to Nigeria’s GDP dropped significantly from 25 per cent in 1980, to only five per cent at present.
He noted that out of 51 ginneries, which were in operation across the country in the 1980s, only 10 were currently operating at low capacity.
Adesina said that the agreement with WACOT was aimed at enhancing the productivity of the ginneries from 150kg to 450kg of lint, while increasing the production of cotton seeds from 120,000 tonnes to 760,000 tonnes by the year 2015.
“A major component of the plan is to multiply and distribute quality seeds, while raising the quality of local lint through the use of appropriate packaging and cotton grading,’’ he said.
Mr Tembe Ravi, the Chief Executive Officer of WACOT, gave the assurance that his company would focus on how to enhance the yield per hectare of cotton farms, while ensuring competitive prices for cotton.
In order to maximise the benefits of the Federal Government’s initiatives, the Bauchi State Government inaugurated a Cotton Implementation Committee, headed by the state’s Deputy Governor, Alhaji Sagir Saleh.
Gov. Isa Yuguda, who inaugurated the committee, identified cotton as a valuable cash crop with enormous potential.
“For more than two decades after Nigeria’s independence, cotton contributed largely to the country’s local and foreign earnings, employment generation and value-added services.
“The present administration intends to evolve a strategy that is aimed at transforming the cotton value-chain into workable and profitable ventures, which can create jobs, wealth and reduce poverty,” Yuguda said.
As a pilot scheme, the committee identified and registered 1,020 cotton farmers in 13 local government areas in the state for the 2012 cropping season.
Each of the farmers was given a N10, 000 grant to cultivate a minimum of one hectare of cotton.
In addition, each of the registered farmers was given 20kg of improved seeds, five bags of assorted fertiliser, 12 litres of insecticides and free extension services.
Impressed by the performance of the committee, Yuguda announced the establishment of the Bauchi State Cotton Sector Development Programme.
Yuguda directed the chairmen of all the local government councils to appoint Cotton Desk Officers who would work with the committee.
However, statistics obtained from the Bauchi State Ministry of Agriculture indicated that each participating farmer harvested 800kg of cotton, as against the anticipated 1.3 metric tonnes per hectare.
Analysts, however, blamed the poor harvest on bad weather and other natural phenomena which occurred in most parts of the country.
“In a normal agronomy practice, each farmer was expected to harvest two metric tonnes (2,000kg) per hectare,’’ a document from the ministry stated.
It said that the state government had directed that apart from the 10,000 small-scale farmers that would be registered for the 2013 season; 5,000 large-scale farmers should be identified to participate in the programme.
However, in the 2012 cropping season, over 3,000 youths were engaged in cotton production, apart from the 1,020 registered farmers.
Besides, the document stated that negotiations had reached an advanced stage between the Bauchi State Government and a Chinese company for the establishment of a ginnery in the state.
Nevertheless, Alhaji Babab Abubakar, the Chairman of the Bauchi State chapter of National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), attributed the poor cotton yield in 2012 to excessive rainfall and intermittent dry spells that occurred in the year.
“Initially, the rain was too much and suddenly, it ceased for some time before resurfacing again.
“I cultivated 10,000 hectares of cotton and harvested 100,000kg. Although the government gave us free seeds, insecticides and N10,000 cash each, we got these items late and we, therefore, commenced cultivation late.
“We are appealing to the government to henceforth make available such incentives in good time,” he added.
Malam Musa Maigoro, a cotton farmer in Zabi town who was forced to switch over to another crop, said that the decline in cotton cultivation was due to the low patronage of cotton and its poor pricing, forcing most farmers to migrate to other crops.
However, Malam Umaru Waju, who still cultivates the crop, said that the situation had improved lately, as buyers now offered reasonable prices for cotton.
Analysts, however, urge cotton-producing states to emulate Bauchi State in efforts to boost cotton production.
They stress that enhanced cotton production will enable the states to boost their internally generated revenue, while aiding their efforts to create employment. NAN