‘How Nigeria Can Revive Cotton Production’

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Oluchi Chibuzor
Nigeria can intensify existing efforts to revive cotton production by allocating more funds for the development of the sector and providing inputs at reduced price to farmers to encourage increase cotton cultivation, a report has stated.

The report by the Financial Derivatives Company Limited, pointed out that in 2010, with a total production capacity of 602,440 metric tons, Nigeria was Africa’s leading cotton producer and the 12th largest in the world.

It, however, noted that cotton production in Nigeria has slumped significantly since then.
Also, in 2017, the country was the sixth largest cotton producing country in Africa and the 22nd globally.

Nonetheless, Nigeria’s cotton output nose-dived by 51.66 per cent to 291,207 metric tons in 2017, from its peak of 602,440 metric tons in 2010.

But export earnings from cotton plunged significantly to $6.07 million in 2017 from close to $570million in 2010. This was largely attributed to low yields due to poor quality seeds, pest damage and weak demand.

It further noted that recent initiatives to improve the contribution of the agricultural sector to economic growth in Nigeria have emphasised the importance of cotton production in stimulating the economy.

“Cotton production in Nigeria has been linked to the productivity of the Nigerian textile industry.
“The demand for the commodity is usually driven by the demand for cotton lint by textile producers. The textile industry used to be the country’s largest consumer of cotton with over 180 textile mills.

“A sizable proportion of the Nigerian workforce at the time was also engaged in processing cotton into finished products.

“The influx of imported textile materials, however, has negatively affected the productivity of the industry. The number of textile mills dropped to 25, employing not more than 20,000 workers,” it stated.

The report showed that the importation of textile products was estimated at approximately $4 billion annually, just as it stressed that the revival of cotton production in the country was imperative to stimulating the ailing textile industry.

According to the FDC, Nigeria’s cotton cultivation was challenged by low yields from lack of high yielding cotton seeds and pest damage.

In 2015, the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) offered cotton farmers about 5.82 metric tons of SAMCOT 7’ 8’ 9’ 10’ 11’ and 12’cotton seeds, in collaboration with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), under the auspices of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN).

This distribution yielded an approximately five per cent uptick in cotton production in the country between 2015 and 2017, the report stated.

Cotton is also a focused commodity under the Anchor Borrower Program initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The program provides small scale farmers with necessary inputs in cash and in-kind services to enhance productivity.

This, according to the report, was because most cotton farmers in Nigeria are typically small holdings farmers who cannot afford the cost of inputs.

In May 2019, the governor of the CBN launched the distribution of cotton seeds to 150,000 cotton farmers in Katsina state, the leading cotton producing state in the country.

The farmers were also offered other inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and knapsack sprayers. It was expected that the initiative would help to improve yields of cultivated cotton to four metric tons from the current one metric ton per hectare.

“Pesticides increase the input cost of cotton farming which has implications on farmers’ profits and have also been found to be detrimental to the environment.

“Instead, the adoption of genetically modified cotton seeds like Bt cotton, is associated with better pest control, high cotton yields and improved revenue.

“This has been found to be a common factor in the success stories of leading cotton producing countries like India and Burkina Faso,” it explained.
Citing lessons from Burkina Faso, the report noted that the country was one of the countries that experienced a substantial boost in cotton production over the years.

Cotton output in the country jumped 123.75 per cent to 844,337 metric tons in 2017 from 377,364 metric tons in 2007. This was 65.51 per cent more than Nigeria’s output in 2017.

“The country is the leading cotton producing country in 2017, a position it has sustained for about a decade.
“The adoption of genetically modified cotton is widely acknowledged as the catalyst for the increases in Burkina Faso’s production output.

“The West African country adopted the Bt cotton in 2008 in a bid to address low yields from cotton cultivation due to pest invasion.
“The genetically modified pest resistant crop helped to prevent the damaging effect of pests on cotton yields.
“As in other cotton producing countries, pest infestation was a major challenge in Burkina Faso until the introduction of the pest resistance Bt cotton in 2008.

“Rising input costs from increased expenses on pesticides and low income due to low yields from cultivated cotton prompted the introduction of the genetically modified cotton seed,” it stated.
However, it pointed out that cotton output in Burkina Faso plummeted after the decision to stop the use of genetically modified cotton in 2016 as it fell by eight per cent in 2018 and was expected to remain suppressed in 2019.

In addition, it cited lessons from Mali, which is the second leading cotton producing country in Africa and was set to take over from Burkina Faso as the leading cotton producer in Africa.
“With proper field trials and the development of genetically modified crops that are adaptive to domestic climate, Bt cotton could improve cotton productivity and facilitate the production of high-quality cotton lint for textile production in the country,” it stated.