Nebbi farmers shun cotton growing over short term crops

NEBBI – For the last three years, cotton growers in Nebbi district have shunned cotton growing for short term crops like rice due to consistent fluctuations in the price of cotton. Most farmers say it has only contributed to their prolonged life in poverty.

Due to the continuous fluctuation of cotton in the world market, farmers have resorted to growing of short-term crops like maize, soya beans, water melons, groundnuts and beans with a sustainable income and result oriented nature which benefit farmers within the period of three months.

The farmers who are reaping from other short-term crops have their livelihoods changed compared to cotton growing where cotton farmers have remained poor for more than 20 years.

According to some farmers, cotton fetched low prices of only Shs 1500 per kilo which many producers say it’s a huge loss compared to the working capital that each farmer spends right from preparing the cotton field.

Oyoma Francis, one of the traditional cotton farmers in Ndhew sub-county, Nebbi district says, last season, he planted more than 5 acres of cotton with a hope of getting profits to send his children to school but ended up getting frustrated with both the yields and price.

“I have never realized any profits from cotton growing for the last three planting seasons due to price and poor seeds quality,” Oyoma said.

The farmers have been battling with low price for cotton commodity for the last five years with the price ranging from Shs 1000 to Shs 1200.

Oyoma further noted that the refusal by most traditional cotton farmers to produce the crop this season, may lead to shortage of cotton commodity since most farmers have opted to grow less tedious crops for easy management.

Another cotton farmer in Atego sub-county, Nebbi district, Franko Wacal says, in 2020, he planted 2 acres of cotton and spent more than Shs 700,000 but only harvested 300kgs which amounted to Shs 450,000 at Shs 1500 per kilo.

“Cotton growing is no longer attractive to farmers due to the production cost incurred by the farmers right from preparing the land up to the harvest time,” Wacal said.

Wacal added that farmers had better soils and they had no reasons sticking to a crop that fetches low returns due to marketability and it’s labor intensive which gives no room to farmers to tap profits at the end of the season.

An official from the Cotton Development Organization (CDO) anonymously said, Uganda has the lowest influence with the price of cotton compared to the world market which has remained a consistent challenge to cotton farmers.

He adds that surprisingly for more than 2 years, cotton farmers have not been realizing good yields and returns due to the outbreak of jessed cotton pest which affected the quality and price of cotton.

“We are getting challenges with continuous fluctuation of cotton prices in the world market with only 5 to 10% of cotton being sold internally in the country but, 90% of cotton was mostly exported to the world market whereby the prices of the cotton are dictated in the world market which has demoralized cotton farmers, ” he said.

He says the country is registering low cotton production due to climatic changes and the fluctuation of cotton prices in the world market during the harvest season which has barred cotton farmers from growing the quantities needed to be exported to the global market.

But this year, the price of cotton has increased from Shs1500 to Shs 2000 and farmers still say, the price is not high enough compared to the workload at the cotton plantation.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (DRDC0 Emma Onyango Okol says, cotton was among the top main cash crops in the country for the last 30 years but there has been a problem with prices after harvest which are so demoralizing and contributing to poverty among the farmers since its labor intensive.

Onyango adds that there is need to restore cooperatives society such that farmers’ problems are well managed to avoid exploitation of farmers by the middle men who take advantage of farmers’ ignorance while negotiating prices.

“Cotton farmers should be linked directly to cotton ginneries to avoid exploitation of farmers by middle men who take advantage over them. This has affected their economic transformation; farmers should be encouraged to form cooperatives,” Onyango said.

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