An Ivory Coast cotton farmers group said production may rise 47 percent by 2015 as growers return to their fields following the end of a decade-long political crisis that split the West African nation.
Production of cotton, mainly grown in the north and central part of the country, is forecast to rise to 400,000 metric tons in 2013-14 and 500,000 tons the following season, Koffi Kanga, general secretary of Afitco-ci, a national producers’ association, said by phone on Nov. 5 from Seguela, in central-west Ivory Coast.
The world’s biggest cocoa producer is integrating the north with the south after a 2002 military uprising left the country split between a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north. After five months of violence, northern fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the winner of a November 2010 presidential election, captured the southern commercial capital, Abidjan, with the support of French and United Nations forces, ousting Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to cede power.
“Farmers feel hopeful,” Yacouba Coulibaly, head of a cooperative of 78 farmers, said in an interview in Korhogo, 360 kilometers (223 miles) from the capital, Yamoussoukro, on Oct. 28. “With the return to normality, they believe again in the cotton crop.”
The outlook for the next two seasons compares with 340,000 tons of seed cotton expected this season, according to Jean-Baptiste Yeo, executive secretary of the National Association of Cotton Growers and Ginners. The group known as Intercoton hasn’t made any forecasts for the next two seasons, Lancina Tuo, head of the organization, said by phone.
Cotton for December delivery, which has dropped 23 percent this year, gained 0.3 percent to 70.28 cents a pound by 9:21 a.m. in London on the ICE Futures market.
During the decade of division, cotton farmers struggled to access southern ports and roads, Michel Koffi N’Guessan, regional director of agriculture in Korhogo, said on Oct. 28.
“Low prices on the international markets and many cases of misappropriation of the harvest also discouraged farmers to focus on cotton during this period.” he said. Output fell to a low of 110,000 tons in 2008 from 350,000 tons in 2002, according to N’Guessan.
Increasing support from the state and “incentive prices” are encouraging farmers, Coulibaly said. He said his cooperative plans to produce about 700 tons of cotton this season, compared with last year’s 528 tons and 340 tons two years ago.
The cotton season runs from May to April, with harvesting typically peaking in November. In the region of Korhogo, 100 kilometers from the border with Burkina Faso, which vies with Mali as Africa’s top cotton grower, farmers started to harvest late last month, said Coulibaly. Buying will start on Nov. 20, said Intercoton’s Yeo.
In recent years, the Ivorian government made attempts to invest in cotton, with the resumption of spending on pesticides and fertilizer in 2009, said N’Guessan. Last season, that state support amounted to 7 billion CFA francs ($14 million), he said.
Ivory Coast introduced a system this season that will see the minimum rate guaranteed by the government increased if prices are higher than forecast, Yeo said. The minimum price for top-grade cotton was set at 265 francs a kilogram (2.2 pounds), while the price for second grade is 240 francs. The prices are similar to last year’s season.
“The good price and the fact we might get more if the market prices are better than expected are encouraging many farmers to grow cotton,” said Kanga, who also heads a cooperative based in Seguela, in central-western Ivory Coast. “Good prices are a source of motivation.”
Farmers are “getting paid more rapidly than in the past”, said Bakary Coulibaly who grows cotton and cashew nuts in the village of Kassougbaraga, near Korhogo. Coulibaly, who produces about two tons of cotton, said he will expand his farm by 1.5 hectares this year.
Intercoton, which includes Kanga’s Afitco-ci, is setting up a database to identify all cotton producers, Yeo said. A code of good practice will also be introduced to prevent fraud and harvest misappropriation, he said.
The higher rate of production will also help cotton factories to restart, Yeo said. Ivory Coast has 12 plants which need 350,000 tons of raw cotton to run properly, he said.