Understandably, efforts to revive the production of cotton in Nigeria dominated discussion at a one-day stakeholders, workshop on cottontransformation value chain which took place in Katsina recently. Indeed, cotton production which for long has been abandoned leading to the dearth of cotton in the country and a drastic reduction in the income generated through cotton and textile subsector, has being a source of worry, more so now that efforts are supposedly been geared toward agricultural transformation for food security and employment generation.
Cotton is one of the most important cash crops in Nigeria and is grown in not fewer than 12 states of the federation. Indeed, its production has contributed significantly to boosting the incomes of farmers and enhanced employment generation as the sector was arguably the highest employer of labour when cotton production was at its peak.
Cotton was once a household name in Nigeria which contributed in no small measure to the economic growth and development of the country. As a matter of fact, cotton has demonstrated the ability to address two of life’s three basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. Interestingly, Nigeria was a net producer of cotton.
However, due to decades of neglect, the scenario has changed leading to closing down of textiles and ginneries even as thousands of jobs were lost. Indeed, this informed the current efforts to revamp cotton production and in the process, rejuvenate the textile sector and contribute to employment generation.
Available statistics indicated that the country currently produces about 125,000 metric tonnes of cotton even as the target is to reach 400,000. Of course, Nigeria has suffered serious set back in textile manufacturing due to decline in cotton production and other factors like power and security issues.
Regrettably, Nigeria’s cotton sector and indeed, cotton production is plagued by low yielding seeds, lack of vital imputs such as fertilizers and insecticides.
As some participants at the workshop noted, lack of quality control and lack of effective marketing arrangements to ensure that farmers do not have difficulties selling their crops when there is unpleasant vagaries in the international market and lack of any meaningful incentives to encourage cotton production are some of the factors impeding smooth cotton production.
In a speech at the workshop which drew participants from the 12 states of Borno, Bauchi Gombe, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa, the minister of state for agriculture and rural development, Bukar Tijjani said the federal government’s agricultural transformation agenda recognized the decline in cotton production and was geared towards reversing the trend.
Tijjani who recalled that not fewer than 675,000 persons have lost their jobs due to the decline in cotton production and neglect of the textile sector, said employment generation from the industry witnessed drastic fall from 700,000 persons “to a dismal 25,000 persons today.
“Besides, the turn-over was then in excess of US $8.95 billion and contributed more than 25 percent of the nation’s manufacturing value added. Its turn-over has fallen to an estimated US $300 billion, making the industry’s contribution to value addition at five percent today,” Tijjani lamented.
He observed that Nigeria’s share of the cotton market has shrunk to near zero today noting “Nigeria lost its prime position as a major producer and exporter of cotton and over the years, the nation’s presence has been eclipsed by Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.”
The minister said the current cotton transformation agenda was initiated in recognition of the decline in cotton production, assuring that government was determined to reverse the trend as according to him, “the federal government has commenced efforts toward restoration and transformation of the cotton and textile businesses”.
“All the value chain development particularly cotton is a contributory, participatory and also a venture where the federal state and the local governments will assist and contribute to the common cause of cotton development’
“We will work out an implementation plan to make sure that the cotton value chain under the current transformation agenda will be made into a workable, feasible and profitable venture that can create jobs, wealth, reduce poverty and enrich Nigerians, while making our textile industries, cotton farmers become busy making naira and dollars again,” he emphasized.
The Host, Katsina state governor, Ibrahim Shema who assured of the state government’s support to the cotton transformation initiative, said cotton is grown in 23 local goverments in the state adding that the state has nine functional ginneries.
“Katsina state government will work in tandem with the federal government initiative as the cotton value chain plan will go a long way in reviving cotton production in the country,” he added.
As the Director-General of Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association, JP Olarenwaju rightly observed, “the cotton value chain is one of the sectors capable of generating massive employment, therefore, there cannot be any more appropriate time than now, for the government to pay special attention to this sector.”
Stakeholders who spoke at the workshop stressed the need for continuity of government programmes and policies even as some attributed the deplorable state of cotton production to long years of neglect by the government.
Among persons who spoke was the former minister of agriculture, Dr Shettima Mustapha, a renowned farmer of long standing repute who said, “all this talk-shops and slides are enough. We have to go back to the farm,” insisting that farming is only done in the farm and not at the conference halls of cozy buildings.
In spite of assurances from the minister of state for agriculture and other relevant government officials at the stakeholders, workshop, the public is still skeptical of the plan with views being expressed that the workshop may just be one of those talk-shops where fine presentations are made, communiqués drawn but regrettably end up at the shelves where they gather dust.
The widespread skepticism not withstanding, government’s assurance that not fewer than 70 billion naira had been earmarked by the Bank of Industries for disbursement as loans to cotton farmers could assist greatly in revamping cotton production if judiciously utilised.
Understandably, experts have insisted that for efforts to revive cotton production to yield the needed impact, government at all levels must synergize and importantly, embark on some basic urgent relief measures to address the counterfeit textiles from China and for instance, more importantly, ensure workable energy/infrastructure and fiscal policy issues to develop strong and competitive cotton industry.