Bt. cotton price, harvest push more farmers into production | Dailytrust

Bt. cotton price, harvest push more farmers into production

Farmers inspect their cotton shortly before harvest		                 PHOTOS: Vincent A. Yusuf
Farmers inspect their cotton shortly before harvest PHOTOS: Vincent A. Yusuf
  • FG must intensify textile industries’ revival

For Joshua Dadi, a Nigerian farmer in Kem community of Adamawa State, his third year of cultivating Bt. cotton came with a lot of blessings.

The current price paid for the crop has risen from N300 ($0.7) per kilogramme (kg) to N400 ($1) per kg within two weeks in December. Under the current price, a tonne (1,000kg) of cotton is now N400,000; which is about $970. Already, marketers are projecting a further rise in the coming months.

In December, 2021, the price was just N280 ($0.7) per kg in the area, but last December, it was a different ball game and the buyers were everywhere.

In the first year when Dadi got the seed free of charge to try, he got 1.3 tonnes and used it on a farm with 80 ridges and realised about N700,000. In the 2020 season, Mr Dadi got about three tonnes of the cotton and made almost N1m ($2,420). A year later, he expanded the farm and is expecting four to five tonnes.

Recounting his experience with the old seed, he said, “We were cultivating it at a loss. You have to apply much fertiliser, spray pesticides up to five times during some years yet each plant hardly produced 50 bolls. This was the reason many people here switched from cotton to soybeans and sesame. When the Bt. Cotton variety was given to us to try, we saw the prospect from the first trials – massive bolls and clean white cotton, we decided to come back to cotton cultivation.”

If the current price trajectory remains so in the coming months, Dadi said his income was likely going to double.

Like Mr Dadi, many cotton farmers in Kem who cultivated the two bollgard II varieties (Mahyco C 567 BG2 and 571 BG2) said the latest harvest might the best as it had brought good tidings already.

 

This reporter spent two days with farmers as they picked cotton in the field, interacting with them on the cultivation of the crop, their three years’ experience and their major challenges.

Alhaji Ibrahim Kem was a well-known cotton farmer in the community but abandoned it for over 18 years for two reasons: poor seed and unstable market. However, in the last two years, he resumed production.

“I came into cultivating this variety last year when I saw what was in the farms of those who cultivated the new variety in 2019. I noticed that you can’t compare the old seed (the non-Bt. variety) and the Bt. variety.  In a farm we used to get one tonne with the old variety, but the new variety can give you about four to five tonnes,” he said.

Speaking on one of his four farms, he said, “Like this farm, it was difficult to get up to one tonne here with the former seed, but from what we are picking now, it’s very likely to get four tonnes.”

But Alhaji Kem has few issues with the seed supplier.

“We want the company to connect us to off-takers that will guarantee good prices, and we want the seed to be supplied when farmers still have money in their hands. 

“Last year, we did not get the seed on time. In fact, I have three hectares of land uncultivated because I could not get the seed during planting season. So we want the company to supply the seed at the time we need it. This year there are people who left cotton for soybeans because of the unstable prices. Only those of us who kept our cotton till March got good prices. Not every farmer can do that,” he said.

Mr Kem cultivates nothing but cotton in his total of 12 hectares and appears to be the biggest medium scale farmer in the area. In one of the farms last year, he got eight tonnes on 3 hectares. At the time this reporter visited, he had already harvested about 15 tonnes from the farms he picked.

“This year, we are happy with the rain and the prices. Last year, rainfall stopped in September and that affected our yield, but this year, it went on till November,” he explained.

Elsewhere, Mr Ibrahim Saidu showed this reporter the farm where he used to get one to two tonnes using the non-Bt. variety. Using the bollguard, he picked up to tonnes.

Regrettably, his major problem is the cost of the seed which goes for N11,000 ($27) per kg and the germination rate.

“They brought this seed when we had spent all the money on other things. You know as farmers, it is what we harvest that we sell to solve our problems. If the seed comes at the time we have the money in our hands, nobody will complain, but it came late,” he lamented.

Dr Amos Phiri is the extension officer of Mahyco, the seed supplier. He said the price of the seed depended on the exchange rate because it was imported.

He explained that from 2018, the number of farmers cultivating the bollguard variety had increased because of the efficacy of the seed and what the farmers were seeing on their fields.

Responding to the farmers’ complaint of germination problems on some farms, he noted that they were working with the farmers to ensure that the type of soil corresponded with the variety in areas where the on-farm trials were not carried out, adding that they were also partnering with the farmers to ensure that basic agronomics such as sowing were done properly.

“Every year, we carry out our own demo besides what the farmers do. We also plant the same seed so as to ensure conformity with soil type among other things. We use our findings to sensitise farmers on agronomics which have had an impact on germination rate in some locations,” he explained.

The field officer noted that the agronomy practices of the famers had increased significantly over the last three years.

Another problem that farmers have identified is the infestation of millipede. At the time of germination, they cut the embryos and make the seed not to grow.

Mr Nuhu Suleiman and Danjuma Adamu aggregate cotton and sell to other cotton buyers. They told Daily Trust that the price of the product this year was good and that already many farmers were trying to buy the seed now for next planting season.

“For every farmer, the current harvest is good. From what we see, prices will go up. Just within 10 days, cotton rose from N300 per kg to N400 per kg. Today, I sold one tonne at N400 per kg,” Mr Suleiman said.

On his part, Mr Adamu said they were willing to buy the cotton from the farmers because their major buyers were happy with the quality of the fibre and wool.

In early December, the federal government flagged off cotton harvest in Wase, Plateau State, a move which proved that the government had redirected its energy to cotton production.

With cotton farming gaining ground again, there is pressure on the government to scale up intervention in the resuscitation of the moribund textile and garment industries in Kaduna that used to provide jobs to over one million people. 

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