Cotton farmers in Zambia rioted Sunday and set ablaze a truck load of lint, after the farm gate prices of the commodity dipped by more than 50%, the Zambian police said Monday.
Farmers in Petauke district, in the country’s main cotton producing eastern province, intercepted the truck belonging to a private marketer before setting it ablaze. The truck was loaded with more than a dozen metric tons of lint, which had just been bought from smallholder farmers, police deputy police spokeswoman Esther Mwaata Katongo said.
Fears of a continuing euro zone crisis, as well as slowing growth in China, one of Zambia’s largest trade partners, is affecting commodity prices in Africa’s largest copper producer, according to analysts.
Zambia cotton farmers are embroiled in a price standoff with the ginners’s (cotton workers) body, the Zambia Cotton Ginners Association. Last month, ZCGA set the price of lint at Zambian Kwacha 1,600 ($0.31) per kilogram, down from ZMK3,500 last season. Industry officials say that more farmers have threatened to burn the commodity as the standoff persists.
The ginners’ body attributes the low prices to the dipping lint prices on the world market since last year. The head of ZCGA, Bourne Chooka, told state media on Monday that the world lint price is about 72 cents/lb, compared with around 150 cents in the same period last year.
“The change in world lint prices dictates a reduction in producer prices all around the world and Zambia is no exception.” Mr Chooka was quoted as saying.
Zambia’s 2012 lint output is estimated at around 200,000 metric tons, compared with around 180,000 tons last year, with the country exporting the bulk of its cotton in lint form mainly to the Asian and European Union markets. The county is also currently building two high voltage electric power transmission lines to the Eastern province in a bid to boost local cotton processing.
“We have arrested one person in connection with the incident,” Ms Katonga said. The farmers also threw rocks at a local police post, where the driver of the truck tried to seek refuge.
Last week, Zambia’s President Michael Sata appealed to the farmers not to burn the commodity, saying that government would soon find a solution for the pricing standoff.