Africa targets cotton output of 5 mln tonnes within 10 years


LOME (Reuters) – Africa’s cotton producers aim to more than triple annual raw cotton output to 5 million tonnes over the next 10 years to better influence world prices, the head of a leading industry organization said on Friday.

West Africa alone represented about 15 percent of the world’s cotton exports, analysts say, but the region was hit hard by a market crash in the early 2000s that pushed many farmers to switch to other crops.

The continent currently produces around 1.5 million tonnes of raw, unginned cotton annually.

“If we can reach production of 5 million tonnes of the 25 million produced each year, then we would be in a strong position, a position to name our price,” Mohammed Iya, president of the African Cotton Association, told a conference in Togo’s capital, Lome.

“It’s a fight each day and we’ll get there. African cotton companies are very determined in this regard,” he said.

West Africa’s cotton sector is witnessing a revival.

Ivory Coast was once among the region’s leading producers with annual output of about 400,000 tonnes before a 2002/03 civil war split the country in two and halved production.

It has forecast output for the 2012/13 season at 360,000 tonnes with the number of cotton farmers increasing to around 100,000 this season, up from 80,000 for the previous harvest.

Production in neighbouring Mali has already reached 451,065 tonnes of cotton this harvest, eclipsing last year’s end of season total of 445,314, a government official said on Friday.

In the short term, African countries will need to expand the amount of farmland used to grow cotton and seek to improve yields by pushing governments to subsidize fertilizer and back agricultural research, Iya said.

But he said countries should also consider using genetically modified strains more adapted to African growing conditions.

“There are GMOs (genetically modified organisms) already in Burkina Faso. In Cameroon we are now trying them,” Iya said.

SOurce: Reuters