Malawi Suffers Decline in Cotton Production

Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson, Gracian Lungu, says the country’s cotton production will see a 70% decline in 2021 with attendant impacts on the country’s forex.

In the recently released crop production estimates, production of cotton which is an important cash crop in Malawi is expected to significantly drop from around 65,000 tons last year to 20,000 tons this year. Apart from cotton, legumes will also see a slight decrease in production.

Since 1980’s cotton production has declined largely because of mixing of different grades, polypropylene contamination, limited grading by farmers, low Ginning – Out – turn (GOT) among others.

Lately, the decline in cotton cultivation has been mostly due to inclement weather, usage of low quality and unsuitable seed varieties, low usage of inputs, lack of credit available to farmers, shift from cotton production to other crops because of reduced international pricing and the inefficiencies in the sector.

The study report attributes the drop to last year’s market challenges which were most impacted by pesticides like Jassids, high moisture levels due to heavy rains, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although Malawi’s estimated production capacity is 600,000 metric tonnes of seed cotton, it couldn’t produce 100,000 metric tonnes of seed cotton despite various government interventions in 2019 its production fell below 20,000 metric tonnes this year.

The state-owned Agriculture Development Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) which had provided inputs, expertise, and markets since 1964 has since shifted focus to other crops like rice, groundnuts, maize, beans, and pigeon peas.  

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