Cotton farmers in Kwara State have called on the government, as a matter of urgency, to revive the growth and production of crops in the state and the country in general.
This, they noted, would be a huge boost to the cultivation of the crop and its numerous value chain.
Kwara has good land for cotton cultivation, especially in the northern part of the state like Kaiama and Edu local government areas, which can serve as a good source of foreign exchange and industrial development.
The lamentation of the farmers is coming amidst calls for efforts to revive its production, which is strategic to the industrial growth of the state and Nigeria.
According to a cotton farmer from Edu Local Government Area, Samuel Gana, the experience has not been an encouraging one.
He said that despite their interest in cotton farming, the government needs to do more than just providing the seedlings without the right funding.
“For a very long time now, we have not gotten cotton seedlings; and the last time we had major cotton cultivation in Kwara State was about 10 years ago when the seedlings were brought, but people didn’t plant it and it got wasted because fertilisers and other inputs were not provided.
“It can be difficult to predict what we can get from a hectare or more. You have to factor in everything you are going to use from pesticides, whether organic or otherwise and the amount of tractor operations you are going to do, which cost begins from over N50,000.
“We have very good lands for cotton in places like Kwara North, and with the issue of security properly taken care of, Kwara will be a major player in the cotton industry in Nigeria,” he said.
Another farmer and former state secretary of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Alhaji Mukaila Salaudeen, said the state of cotton in Kwara State was very low, adding that there is need to revive the association to attract more members.
Salaudeen stressed that farmers who want to engage in cotton should be assured or guaranteed of the market since the crop is not like food crops like rice where you can take to the local market for people to buy or consume.
“You need good and improved cotton seedlings to give good yield because cotton farming is not too different from others from land preparation, planting and use of controlled insecticides.
“You don’t plant cotton when the rain is too much but around July and harvest during the dry season around November, unlike maize and cassava or other crops.
“Many people are avoiding going into cotton farming because of the problem of where to sell after harvest or production. If the government or the private sector guarantees to off-take after harvest, then we have a bright market outlook, otherwise the future is bleak,” he submitted.
Salaudeen, who is also the chairman of Amana Farmers, said cotton farming was also very lucrative because the amount of sale per tonne is not like other crops, and the management is not too tedious.
He said, “If we get the production of cotton right, it will attract garment production factories and other related industries with their value chain which is a veritable source of revenue for the state.”
Also speaking on the issue, a top cotton farmer in the country, Mrs Omowumi Helen Oduyemi, highlighted the challenges in cotton production, not only in Kwara but across the country.
She said that based on her observation as a top player in the field, there is no adequate information in the past five years to farmers, of what are the dos and don’ts in cotton production.
“The improved seeds we are using at our farm are not well circulated among the farmers, which led to low yield. So there is the challenge of information dissemination to the people that really need it.
“Also, the use of technology is lacking, which affects all the timelines, and sometimes, the economics of production that farmers are given are not those that can work. Making good seeds available not only to commercial but all categories of farmers will be a good starting point,” she added.
The Oyo-based cotton producer emphasised the use of technology and smart or precision cotton farmer as some of the moves that can greatly impact the sector.
“If we get the cotton production right, it is a multibillion dollar industry where China and Bangladesh are raking in trillions. Even Mali is ahead of us. Nigeria is not on the radar of cotton production despite our land size and potential, which is our failure to harness our opportunities from the various states with comparative advantage in cotton production. But we can achieve that by going organic and most especially technology,” she said.