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Zimbabwe Government Intervenes in Cotton Pricing War

  • Tatenda Gumbo

After months of holding out, Zimbabwe's cotton farmers may soon be back at the market if ginners comply with a government order raising the buying price from US$0.29 to 77 cents for the lowest grade per kilogram.

Grade A cotton will fetch 84 cents, a big jump from about 40 cents. Grade B will sell for 81 cents while Grade C will go for 79 cents.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said farmers should not sell their produce at prices that are below the cost of production.

Communicating the cabinet decision, he said ginners that do not comply may lose their licenses.

Sources say the parliamentary committee on agriculture, although having recommended that the government intervened to end the impasse, is not happy about cabinet setting the prices.

The impasse between farmers and buyers escalated over the past months as producers held on to their crop demanding buyers raise the price to between 49 and 80 cents per kilogram.

The buyers, who fall under the Cotton Ginners Association, were offering prices ranging from 29 to 40 cents, an offer described as an insult by some farmers who even threatened to burn their produce in protest.

Lawmaker and chairman of the parliamentary committee on agriculture, Moses Jiri, told VOA the government's move temporarily addresses the price war.

"These prices are sort of an imagination," he said. "There is no way you can come up with prices going with what is happening in industry and who is going to buy. The best route this government should have taken was to engage the organizations and put everything on a clear cut so no-one would lose."

Independent economist Masimba Kuchera said government needs a clear policy regulating cotton farmers and buyers, adding its intervention should not be to set prices as a remedy.

"Government intervention should not be to peg what the price should be, government should intervene in terms of proper regulation of the industry so that cotton farmers and cotton ginners are able to make profit in a properly regulated environment," said Kuchera.