Uganda’s cotton production in season 2014/15 has doubled, hitting the one million bale mark, up from just over 500,000 bales in 2012/13.
Figures from the Cotton Development Organization (CDO) suggest that one million bales of lint, equivalent to 200,000 tons, have been produced in the last cotton season, from 40 ginneries spread across the country.
Uganda, East Africa’s second-biggest cotton producer after Tanzania, plants the crop from June through August and reaps it between December and February.
Vicky Onyai, the lead person at Nebbi-based Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Forum (APEF), an organization that supports cotton farmers, says adequate rains in 2014 contributed to increased cotton yields.
Onyai however says cotton farmers continue to suffer lower prices despite sustaining Uganda’s third second biggest cash crop export after coffee and tea.
According to figures from global market, cotton prices have consistently declined from nearly one dollar or 2,800 shillings per pound in June 2014 to just over half a dollar or 1,400 shillings in February 2014. Locally the government set the indicative price of a kilo of cotton, 1,000 shillings.
The managing director of CDO, Jolly Sabune, was yet to comment on the figures including factors for the increase in production.
However, the available CDO data indicates that despite the increase in cotton production, only five percent of the cotton produced is used by the textile industry in Uganda.
At least 95 percent of the lint is exported mainly to Asia, Europe, United States and neighboring Kenya.
The cotton retained on the domestic market is used by private cotton seed crushing and oil extracting factories that make edible oil, cotton seed cake and soap.
Moses Mabala, a trade promotion officer at Uganda Export Promotion Board, says value addition of cotton, just like any other export, has the potential to boost production and exports.
Mabala explains that Uganda has signed up to lucrative duty-free exports opportunities like the East African Community Common Market, Comesa and the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union which are not being taken advantage of.
He adds that 80 percent of Uganda’s exports to China, including cotton, are duty-free which should have encouraged more production and value addition.