About 14,000 hectares of Ethiopia’s 65,000 hectares of cotton producing land is barren this year following a year of bad rainfall resulting in the current drought. The barren land would have produced more than 9,600 metric tons of cotton, had the rains come on time this year.
According to the Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute (ETIDI), notable cotton producers Welquite and Metemma areas lost 7000 and 2000 hectares of cotton respectively. Omo and Afar areas account for the rest of the damage.
This fiscal year, the country expected to produce 45,000 metric tones of cotton but short rains will reduce this target by 20 percent and may also increase the price of cotton on the market.
Bantihun Gessesse, Head of Public Relations in ETIDI is optimistic that the effects of the lost crops will not significantly affect the market.
“As with other crops, we have lost some cotton due to the short rains but on the market buyers are not facing shortages. We have seen that producers have stocks and they can meet the textile companies’ demand.”
The solution, according to Bantihun is to produce more cotton. “In the last five years we have convinced several investors to join cotton agriculture and we still need to do more work to attract others.”
Though ETIDI is pushing farmers towards cotton production, textile companies offer low prices for local cotton choosing instead to import cotton from abroad.
Further research into cotton production in Ethiopia is also said to be necessary to improve the quality of cotton yields. Instead of planting new cotton crops, most farmers nurse cotton from previous harvests, which brings a lot of diseases that affects new cotton crops and decreases the yields.
A total of 2.6 million hectares of land is earmarked for cotton production, which is grown in the lowlands through large-scale irrigation and rain. This is equivalent to that of Pakistan, the fourth largest cotton producer in the world. The largest volume of cotton production in the world is concentrated in China, the US, India, Pakistan, and Brazil.
Despite the country’s potential, Ethiopia produces only around 21,000 to 40,000 metric tones of raw cotton annually from a total area of 45,000 hectares.