President Goodluck Jonathan recently directed the distribution of free improved cotton seeds to farmers in Nigeria as part of the government’s strategy to boost cotton cultivation for economic value.
Jonathan said the gesture was in line with his administration’s commitment to revamp the agricultural sector, expand the economy and make agriculture a business.
Many agriculturalists have applauded the presidential initiative, noting that the use of improved seeds in cotton cultivation will ensure higher yields.
They noted that the provision of improved seeds could also help to reduce pest infestation and withstand the vagaries of weather.
For them, the initiative would also go a long way in fast tracking the revival of the famous cotton ginnery in the northern part of the country.
This underscores the decision of the Federal Government to partner with the West African Cotton Company (WACOT) on how best to resuscitate cotton production in the country by providing improved seeds to farmers.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, while speaking at the MoU signing, recalled that the country’s turnover of cotton in 1980s was in excess of 8.9 billion dollars.
Adesina said the amount represented more than 25 per cent of the nation’s manufacturing contribution to the GDP, noting that the current turnover dwindled to mere 300 million dollars.
The minister regretted that employment generation from the textile industry fell from 700,000 in 1980s when the industry was flourished with more than 175 mills in operation to only 25,000 persons currently.
“Employment generation in northern Nigeria underwent a precipitous fall due in part to the collapse of the cotton and textile industry; it has also led to the attendant social unrest, economic strain and increasing rate of poverty,” he said.
Adesina said the industries’ contribution to the value addition had dropped significantly from 25 per cent in 1980 to five per cent currently.
He said out of 51 ginneries in operation in the 80s, only 10 were currently functional at low capacity.
He also maintained that the partnership with WACOT was necessitated by the urgent need to restore the past glory of the cotton industry in Nigeria.
The minister said under the agreement, the overall plan was to raise productivity from 150 kilogramme to 450 kilogramme of lint by 2015 and double production from 120,000 tonnes of seed cotton to 760,000 tonnes in 2015.
“A major component of the plan is to multiply and distribute quality seed and raise quality of local lint through the use of appropriate packaging and cotton grading,’’ he posited.
Adesina noted that under the agreement, WACOT proposed a four-year seed multiplication plan to cover Adamawa, Borno, Jigawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano and Gombe states.
He said the government was making efforts to make available more hectares of land for cotton cultivation and that 105,307 cotton farmers across the 11 targeted states would benefit from the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme, covering seeds and fertiliser.
He expressed optimism that the successful implementation of the MoU would benefit the entire economy in the areas of employment generation and tax accruals to the three tiers of government.
To further make the textile industry viable, the government, he said, had taken measures toward eliminating illegal textile importers.
The Chief Executive officer of WACOT, Mr Tembe Ravi, applauded the initiative, noting that the initiative came at a time when cotton production in the country had declined from 300,000 tonnes to 65,000 tonnes in the 2010/2011 season.
Ravi stressed the need to make cotton business more attractive to farmers under the Agricultural Transformation Action Plan.
According to him, the focus of WACOT is to enhance yield per hectare, ensure remunerative price for farmers and improve the quality of the produce as well as processing and packaging.
In his comments at the inauguration of improved cotton seed distribution to farmers in Tsafe, Zamfara, Alhaji Lawal Yahaya, an official of WACOT said the company was expected to make available more than 3,200 tonnes of improved cotton seeds, 3,690 litres of chemicals and fertiliser for distribution to farmers at subsidised rates.
He said the beneficiaries were expected to repay 50 per cent of the loans with cotton produce at harvest time, while the Federal Government would pay 50 per cent of the cost of the inputs as subsidy contribution.
Yahaya assured that the partnership between the government and WACOT on the cotton seed multiplication programme would last for four years.
According to him, an estimated 15,650 hectares of land will be cultivated with cotton in Borno, Jigawa, Zamfara, Katsina and Gombe States to be purchased and marketed by WACOT.
The WACOT official added that the distribution of the high yielding cotton seed, launched in Tsafe, would be supervised by the Nigeria Agricultural Seeds Council to ensure transparency in the agreement package.
According to him, farmers in Zamfara are expected to cultivate more than 3,000 hectares of cotton, while their counterpart in Katsina, rated as the highest cotton producing State in country, will cultivate up 10,000 hectares during the 2012 agricultural season.
“With the improved seeds and the helping hand offered to farmers, cotton production is expected to multiply, while more marketing strategies are being understudied to ensure that the farmers get value for their investment,’’ he says.
He added that: “Statistics shows that no fewer than 675,000 persons have lost their jobs so far due to the decline in cotton production and neglect of the textile industry.
“It also indicates that employment generation from the industry also witnesses drastic fall from 700,000 persons to 25,000 persons today.
“Besides, the turn-over from cotton, production has fallen from an excess of 8.95 billion dollars in the 80s to an estimated 300 billion dollars,” he said.
He says to encourage cotton production, the Bank of Industry (BoI) has earmarked more than N70 billion for disbursement as loans to cotton farmers.
“Efforts have been made to provide more extension materials, training of farmers and strengthening of cotton related associations such as farmers groups, ginners, merchants, spinners and garment producers.
“These efforts will make Nigeria self-sufficient in cotton in terms of satisfying the demand of local industries as well as exporting surplus,’’ he said.
Stakeholders say the initiative appears to have started yielding positive results as many of the cotton producing States intensify efforts at rejuvenating various cotton farms.
Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State acknowledges the strides so far achieved in reviving cotton production in the state.
He says the State government will continue to lend its support to the cotton transformation initiative, adding that cotton is grown in 23 local government areas in the state.
“Katsina State government will work in tandem with the Federal Government initiative as the cotton value chain plan will go a long way in reviving cotton production in the country,’’ he says.
Also, to complement the Federal Government’s efforts, the Bauchi State Government says it is resuscitating all the cotton ginneries in the State.
The Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Dauda Abdullahi, says the State government has set up a cotton revival committee to mobilise the citizens to engage in massive cotton production.
“In 1951, a cotton ginnery was established at Misau under the British Cotton Growing Association but was not sustained due to poor production of the commodity by farmers in the state.
“The Misau Ginnery processed cotton produced in the former Bauchi province and other ginneries in the former Northern Nigeria and was a huge source of foreign exchange for the province and the region in general,” Abdullahi notes.
He says the new ginnery will be operated under the public-private partnership agreement with reputable experts in the marketing and processing of cotton to make it viable and of international standard.
He says the State will also collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to address the production, processing and marketing of the product from the ginnery.
The permanent secretary says 510 farmers will be engaged during the 2012 cropping season to cultivate cotton while agriculture extension workers and farmers are to be trained on modern cotton farming techniques.
Reports gathered from Sokoto State say that the government is set to revive cotton production in the state to stimulate economic growth.
According to the reports, the government is also extending a number of incentives to investment in the agriculture and agro-processing industries.
With all these, cotton farmers believe that with adequate and improved cotton seeds available to them at subsidised rates, cotton production will increase to boost the nation’s economy.
Cotton is grown in Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa.
Adamu, writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)