Thursday, September 20, 2018
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By Divine Ntaryike Jr

Cotton farmers in Cameroon’s northern regions are venting disappointment over recent moves by the government to trim swelling smuggling of the chief textile industry component to neighboring Nigeria.

Trade Minister Luc Magloire Atangana Mbarga disclosed the inducements at the launch of the 2011/12 cotton marketing season in late December.  They include a 27.5 percent jack up in farm-gate cotton prices from 200 FCFA/kg last season to 255 FCFA/kg for the current harvest.

Mbarga also divulged plans to establish a cotton and soja Risk and Price Management Fund with an initial 4 billion FCFA in its coffers.  The money, he added, will be mutually managed by the Cotton Development Corporation SODECOTON and the Confederation of Cotton Growers.

But several farmers say they are not placated.  “One kilogram of cotton sells at over 700 FCFA in Nigeria.  They come and propose 255 FCFA and think that will end the trafficking?  It is not feasible.  The smuggling will continue,” Labare Alioum, a grower in the Far North region told CAMPOSTLINE at the weekend.

Cameroon’s total cotton yield in the previous season stood at 161,000 tons.  SODECOTON reported over 16 percent of the harvest was sneaked across the border into Nigeria by smugglers.It adds that it incurred losses to the tune of 24 billion FCFA as a result of the vast illegal exports. 

SODECOTON subsidizes cotton cultivation by providing farmers with input like planting material, fertilizers and equipment.  In turn, the farmers are obliged to sell their harvests at agreed discounted rates to the government-run corporation.

“Many farmers consider it is a form of enslavement.  It is true that farm inputs are very expensive at times.  But imagine that we are free to sell to whoever we want.  We will make bigger profit and be able to procure what we need to boost production,” Alioum argued.

Some 200,000 farmers grow cotton on about 172,000 ha in the country’s desert-close Far North, North and Adamawa regions.  The Confederation of Cotton Growers estimate some 2 million people live off the sector. 

According to Mbarga, production is gradually regaining verve after morose punctuation imposed by world market price slumps in 2004 and 2008.  SODECOTON has hinted a likely raise in pre-financing funding from 24 billion FCFA last year to close to 34 billion, and the government is projecting a production hop to between 185,000 and 200,000 tons this season, especially with the planned introduction of high-yielding planting material.

However, the same authorities have expressed fears that if farmers continue to fraudulently export their harvests, or connive with Nigerian smugglers, all the efforts will go to waste.  The governor of the North region, Gambo Haman announced in November he had set up a cotton control committee to curb the illicit exports. He warned that henceforth, traffickers will be ranked in the same league as highway robbers and dealt with as such.

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