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Shrinking market discourages cotton production by Nigerian farmers

Nigeria’s cotton industry is fast sliding towards extinction on account of a shrinking local market and low seeds available to farmers, despite the incentives of an alluring $3 trillion global industry.

More so, many of Nigeria’s cotton farmers have shifted to growing other crops. Stakeholders have attributed the decline in cotton production to low-quality key inputs such as seeds, inadequate finance for farmers, and the death of the country’s textile industry.

Nigeria’s cotton production is put at 51,000 metric tonnes on 253,000 hectares, with an average yield of 202kg per hectare, while global cotton consumption is put at 24 million metric tonnes, according to International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) 2016 data.

Cotton, which used to be one of Nigeria’s major cash crops in the ’70s was not even among the top 19 agricultural commodities exported in 2020 full year, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show.

“A lot of farmers are no longer growing cotton because of low patronage and lack of inputs. The inputs we get from the government usually come very late. When you delay in planting cotton, it affects the productivity,” said Abubakar Shiyaki, a cotton farmer in Niger state.

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“When we buy our seeds ourselves, we only buy low-quality seeds. As a result of all these challenges, a lot of farmers growing cotton are now growing other crops because they cannot break even with cotton,” Shiyaki said.

The Federal Government had in 2017 proposed a budget of N51 billion to promote the development of the country’s garment and textile industry.

Data from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment show that between 1980 and 2016, about 145 companies operating in the textile sector had shut down, due to policy somersaults, poor research, and development (R&D), lack of competition in the supply of cotton (raw materials), smuggling and poor power supply, among others.

Salmanu Abdullahi, chairman, Ginners Association of Nigeria, said “the total collapse of cotton production was as a result of government neglect of agriculture. We however believe that things would be different now that there is a renewed commitment to the sector.

“Government needs to also address the issue of seeds so that farmers can improve their yields,” said Abdullahi.

Stakeholders have blamed the failure to increase cotton output on ineffective government structures that do not allow effective and efficient translation of technology between research institutes and cotton farmers.

Ibrahim Umar Abubakar, director, Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Zaria said, “the failure of extension service delivery in the country has contributed to the failure of cotton farmers. Farmers need to be trained on good handling practice, modern farming techniques, and technology.”

Despite the ban of forex to importers of textile in Africa’s most populous country in 2019 and the introduction of two varieties of biotech cotton in commercial quantities in 2018, the country has not seen a significant market for its cotton or increase in production.

Similarly, the Central Bank has disbursed about N44billion to cotton farmers as a way of revamping the sector. This has brought about a marginal increase in cotton production as importation continues to be on the rise.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) trade report, importation of textile and textile articles rose year-on-year by 257.9 percent in the first three months of 2021 to N171.8 billion from N48billion in the same period of 2020.

“There is still not an adequate market for cotton in the country despite most of us are returning to the cultivation of the crop since the government distributed improved seed varieties for us in 2018,” Ibrahim Isa, a cotton farmer in Kano said in a telephone response to questions.

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