We will burn fi cotton - Gwembe farmers
Cotton farmers in Gwembe’s Bbondo ward have threatened to set ablaze their cotton fields in the wake of the announced cotton price for this marketing season that has been reduced by half.
The peasant farmers, who abandoned maize production in preference for cotton production due to its last year’s attractive cotton price, told ZANIS in Bbondo yesterday that they will torch their fields if no upward adjustment is made sooner.
A check by ZANIS found very few farmers harvesting the crop despite most fields being ready for picking.
Driving past some fields in Bunyente area, un-herded cattle were seen grazing on the ripe cotton crop.
The farmers have decided to suffer double loss by not harvesting the crop only to sell at a give-away price.
Earlier this year, the Cotton Association of Zambia announced a reduction in the buying price from K3,200 last marketing season to K1,600 this year.
This has infuriated the cotton farmers who had invested in cotton production, expecting an even higher price from the previous cotton pricing.
Emelly Mweemba told ZANIS that the price of cotton for this marketing season was an insult to cotton farmers who spent a lot of money to produce the crop.
Chisangano Vice Village Headman, Boscow Chisangano, also told ZANIS that maintaining the announced price for cotton this year would impoverish cotton farmers and result in food insecurity as most farmers went into cotton growing anticipating a hike on the price this year.
And Bbondo ward councillor, Patrick Hanjeme, has called on government to intervene in the pricing process and consider the plight of cotton farmers by adjusting the cotton price upwards.
Mr Hanjeme hoped the plight of farmers would be heard, saying the PF government is a listening government that puts people’s needs above politics.
He said many households will be income stricken and would fail to send their children to school if the cotton price is maintained at K1,600 per kg, adding that rural poverty would be worsened.
Meanwhile, Gwembe District Commissioner, Alice Mwiinga has pleaded with the farmers in Gwembe to consider harvesting and storing the crop to avoid total loss.
Mrs Mwiinga, who was in Bbondo ward yesterday, said leaving the crop in the field to be destroyed by fire and animals is not a good option.
She appealed for calm among the cotton farmers, adding that government is in consultation with the cotton industry and other stakeholders in a bid to break the deadlock on cotton pricing.