Climate change affects cotton production

By Regis Mhako

The COTTCO Chinhoyi business unit risks losing 25 percent of the projected output, due to the impact of climate change which has seen a significant chunk of the white gold failing to mature as a result of extreme low temperatures.

While government comprehensively provided support to cotton farmers this season, nature reversed the projected gains after an erratic rainfall season, prolonging the cotton maturity period.

It is estimated that 25 percent of the crop in the area covered under the COTTCO Chinhoyi business unit could be lost as the cotton bolls are still green and unable to split due to cold temperatures.

Farmers say they are now between a rock and a hard place as livestock is now feasting on the crop.

Mr Richard Dick, a cotton farmer said, “We are counting loses. We are now plucking out the green cotton balls for drying to save them being consumed by livestock.”

“As I speak, I am coming from the field where I have been guarding the crop. I think the way to go is to adopt the hybrid variety which is high yielding and early maturing because of change in climatic conditions,” another cotton farmer, Mr Tsikai Tsunga said.

COTTCO authorities are hopeful that the early maturing variety could be the answer to the new challenge.

“Sinoia in Mhangura, where I supervise, we expect losses of up to 26 percent of the planted hectarage,” said COTTCO Mhangura Transit Depot manager, Mr Sinoia Sinoia.

“Government had done well to empower cotton farmers through various support programmes like Pfumvudza but this side of the country, we have been severely affected by the change in seasons. Traditionally, farmers pick cotton between April and May but due to temperatures that are low, some cotton balls are yet to split and they are still fresh,” said COTTCO Business Unit manager, Mr Claudius Kanhema.

Government support had seen the number of farmers into cotton farming going up while there is also an added incentive as farmers are being paid US$60 per every bale they deliver in addition to the local currency payment calculated per kilogramme.