Lilongwe, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has expressed the importance of having structured cotton markets for the benefit of smallholder farmers and government.
Chairperson for the Committee, Joseph Chidanti Malunga said this Friday during an interface meeting with the Cotton Council of Malawi (CCM) and African Institute Corporate Citizenship (AICC) which was held at Sunbird Capital Hotel Lilongwe.
He noted that without proper structured markets for cotton, the country is losing out on taxes and levies which government needs to collect from the sales.
The Chairperson pointed out that smallholder cotton farmers would have an opportunity to sell their produce on recommended prices unlike what is happening now.
Malunga said a well-structured market for cotton would enable the country to have proper data on how much the country is producing cotton per a year.
He added that this would enable cotton smallholder farmers to have a proper platform where they would be able to sell their produce at profitable margins unlike what is happening now where middlemen are reaping them off.
The cotton sector needs to look at the input supply system like the way tobacco and maize are being managed in the country, the Chairperson explained.
Malunga assured the CCM and AICC of his committees support in order to address some of the challenges the cotton sector is facing in the country.
He pointed out that the country has been operating without agriculture policy since 1964 as a result some crops have lacked proper support.
We believe that the new agriculture policy which has been developed and is now operational will help the country to target all crops equally and provide the needed financial muscle for the benefit of small holder farmers, the Chairperson viewed.
Malunga said the committee needs to interact with various stakeholders in the agriculture sector in order for the members to appreciate their situation so that when they are pushing issues in parliament they should be in the know.
Chief Executive Officer for CCM, Cosmas Lwanda pointed out that this year’s cotton production dropped to 5,000 metric tonnes as compared to 15,000 metric tonnes last year.
He said the figures could not be a true reflection on the ground because there was no collation to data base due to the absence of proper structured markets throughout the country.
We believe the figures were slightly higher but somewhere some people wanted to hide the proper information in order to evade taxes and levies since the total production was very low on paper, Lwanda disclosed.
He said this could be addressed if the committee could assist CCM to implement their plan of establishing proper structured cotton markets in the country.
Head of Programmes at AICC, Driana Lwanda said the country has potential in the cotton sector and stand to benefit more from cotton if the challenges the sector is facing could be addressed.
She pointed out that the issues which were raised by CCM were crucial in terms of development of the cotton sector and this requires collective responsibility in order to tackle them.
CCM has registered 50,160 cotton farmer in 15 cotton growing districts and 45,016 hectares of land is used to grow the crop.
Smallholder cotton farmers were selling their produce at K350.00 per kg last marketing season.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA