By Cecilia Ijuo
The President, National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN),Mr Anibe Achimugu, says cotton has capacity to contribute not less than 15 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP) if properly harnessed.
Achimugu, who made this known in an interview with News Agency if Nigeria(NAN), in Abuja, said as a cash crop, cultivated in most states of the Federation, cotton could help turn the country’s fortune around as it did before the oil boom.
He decried that while cotton contributed immensely to the country’s GDP in the past, a lot of factors had militated against the survival of the cotton value chain.
This he said included closure of textile industries in some parts of the country, poor infrastructure among others.
“At the moment it is difficult to specify cotton’s contribution to Nigeria’s GDP and that is part of what the association is trying to do, to gather the required data to be able to say what our statistics are in terms of contribution to GDP.
“In the past it was significant with the sector being second in terms of employment and all of that.
“As we speak private companies in Nigeria are exporting cotton, which is not much of a problem.
“The problem is infrastructure and logistics. You are dealing with poor roads and congestion of the ports.
“Also, the cotton products from Nigeria unfortunately suffer negative perception on quality but then sometimes it is not a perception but a reality because maybe, we are not taking care of the quality issue from the beginning.
“So, if we target even having a 10 per cent to 15 per cent contribution to GDP I think is not bad.
“We can achieve it because we have the population, land and the farmers and as we speak there are investors that are willing to come in to establish factories.
“At least 31 states of the federation can produce cotton, with Katsina still being the largest cotton producing state,” he said.
He commended the present administration for its determination to revamp the sub sector.
He added that some intervention programmes of the Federal Government targeted at repositioning the agricultural sector and cotton in particular, had helped to keep the subsector afloat.
He said, “we try to encourage members of our association to take cotton farming seriously.
“And I think we have succeeded in that in the sense that we have been able to bring together about 151,000 farmers on the scheme through the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) through the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
“We have not been doing very well. Last year for instance, without this intervention we were talking of about 80,000 metric tonne maximum in production.
“But this year we will be doing nothing less than 200,000 metric tonne. That is the target.
“Any opportunity I have to speak about the programme, I adjudge it to be one of the best agricultural programmes that has been introduced to agriculture in Nigeria, not just for the benefit of cotton but other commodities as well.
“It is because it addresses the immediate requirement of farmers which includes recommended quantity of inputs and marketing, which means that the farmer does not really need to struggle to look for a market or buyer.
“It also addresses the minimum price guarantee for the farmers.”
He further said,”the association is also trying to support them to put structures in place to ensure that the farmer understands exactly what they are getting. It is a loan that ought to be paid back and not a free intervention.
” It is a concessionary loan with one digit interest rate.
“The farmer only needs to show interest, and be with an association under the umbrella of the cotton association with biometric capturing and marked farms and that’s all, raand will qualify for the intervention.”
The national president said if the intervention could be sustained, Nigeria would do better than other African countries, not just in cotton farming but the entire value chain, including processing and marketing.
He further noted that, “Nigeria can do much better if you compare with our neighbours and this is something this intervention is addressing.
“Of course it is not only addressing farming but the entire value chain.
“CBN is taking care of the issues and challenges that processors of cotton have as well as textile industries that use the cotton.
“With this intervention for instance, cotton harvest bags are being given to farmers to avoid contamination.
“We are also trying to teach them handling because picking is important.
“In terms of expected yield vis a vis potential of reviving existing textile industries, not talk about investors and population, we are looking at over a million metric tonne of cotton annually.
“Even currently what we require to feed the existing value chain is nothing less than 700,000 metric tonne of seed cotton which Nigeria has the capacity to produce.
“This will involve the different quality types of cotton because not all cottons are suitable for making shirts or “khaki” and we have the capacity to produce them as a country.”
Achimugu urged government to increase the intervention scope to enable the industry to expand beyond its present state.
“Government should encouraged a farmer now to move from one hectare to maybe five hectares. We will also expect government to open up available farmlands because that is one of the biggest challenges.
“Government is doing well and we encourage them to continue but typically in Agric because of its nature, technology is required. So we are looking at more funding.”
NAN reports that Cotton, a plant in the Gossypium family was once one of Nigeria’s major cash crops being exported to other countries until the oil boom.(NAN)