The local textile industry is on the verge of collapse due to insufficient raw cotton supply to meet its demand.A survey conducted by BusinessWeek has found that many textile entities previously owned by the government have stopped operations due to lack of raw materials, in the form of locally produced cotton.
Even the few private ones that are still in operation face similar challenges of getting enough raw materials. They are forced to import synthetic fabrics which increase the cost of production and lead to production of expensive clothes.
A recent report by a task force formed in June last year by the ministry of Industry, Trade and Marketing in collaboration with Consolidated Holding Corporation (CHC) has revealed that Mbeya Textile Mill Limited has stopped operations due to lack of cotton.
According to the report, the company is in a very bad condition to the extent that most of the machines have been left to decay; but the investor says he cannot do any production without cotton.
Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) regulatory officer Emanuel Mwangulumba says there is no way the government can authorise cotton production in Chunya, which is the only hope for Mbeya textile, due to the increased spread of crop pests.
“Insects that attacked cotton crops in the last ten years in Chunya District made the government stop cotton production activities in the district, which according to the investor led to a shortage of cotton, leading to a shutdown of the industry in April 2011,” says Mwangulumba.
He says the red bollworm which affects cotton is uncontrollable, adding that allowing cotton production at the area can spread further the problem to un-affected areas.
“The investor can get cotton from other places such as Mwanza and Shinyanga, but as the board we cannot guarantee cotton production in the whole zone,” he adds. In the 2011/12 season cotton production in the country went up by 9 per cent from 163,518 tonnes in 2010/11 to 225,938 tonnes.
The current capacity of cotton production is 225,938 tonnes per year, but since it is only a half of the total demand, the government is planning to double the production capacity by the 2014/15 season, he says.
This implies that the actual demand for cotton by manufacturers is at least 500,000 metric tonnes.
Tanzania exports more than 70 per cent of the total cotton grown in the country, the rest is left for the local industry, according to TCB. “There is no special cotton price for the Tanzanian industry, the ginners sell at the same price as that of the world market, the difference at the global stage is only the transportation cost,” said the TCB cotton regulatory officer.
Another company that stopped operations is Urafiki Textile Mills which is owned 51 per cent by the government of China and the rest by the Tanzania government.
The closure of Urafiki Textile has seen more than 600 workers left jobless and more than the same number earning only 60 per cent of their salaries.
A recent survey has shown that Urafiki’s current products are among the most expensive in the market.
The high cost of Urafiki products has led many people to buy foreign kanga and kitenge which are cheaper, causing the country to lose a huge amount of the highly-needed foreign exchange.
“I used to buy locally-produced kanga which was of high quality. However, currently they are very expensive and are not of the same quality as they used to be.
I prefer buying cheap kanga made in India, although they are always of low quality,” said Anna Moses.
In 2003, kanga produced by Urafiki Textile Mills was selling at Sh3,000, but currently the same kanga is sold at Sh7,000, which is an unbearable price for many poor women. Recently, Urafiki deputy general manager, Moses Swai, revealed that the company stopped operations from February to the end of August last year due to lack of cotton.
“This is a sickening factor especially when one considers that there is no law that restricts ginners from leaving a certain percentage of cotton in the country before exporting the remaining quantity,” said Mr Swai.
Nida textile mills also faces a similar problem according to its director Hasnah Perdesl, who recently said last year they closed the factory for five months, effective from March, due to lack of raw materials.
Mr Perdesl said the closure had led them to incur a loss of $2.3 million, while 1,200 Tanzanian workers lost jobs. He added that the factory resumed production in August last year.
Mwangulumba also says the government was planning to order ginners to set aside at least 60 to 90 per cent of the total cotton grown in the country for the local industry which employs a large number of Tanzanians.
He argues that lack of a regulatory body to monitor the activities of Tanzania Association of Textile Manufacturers (TATM), cotton farmers and other stakeholders led to the weakness of the Association and other problems. He noted that TATM lacked bargaining power to channel their demands to the government.
He said the government was planning to incorporate the Association into the ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives to enable it to have more bargaining power.
Other remedial measures include the establishment of contract farming whereby farmers would be receiving loans in the form of agricultural inputs which will be recovered after the sale of cotton.
The agricultural input loans would cover provision of quality seeds, chemicals, pumps, and fertilizers which would be sold at lower prices so as to enable all farmers to have access to the credit.
The government has also employed consultants with the aim of developing an action plan on how to boost the textile industry in the country as well as create employment opportunities.
Mwangulumba also says that the government has banned the use of steelyard weighing scales which led to cotton theft by ginners.
“The government has directed all ginners to use digital weighing scale in the coming season to reduce complaints from farmers,” he said.
However, the digital weighing scales face erratic supply of electricity, and the fact that most rural areas have no power connection.