Cooperatives and farmers dealing in cotton in Kasese district have decried the lower than expected production of the cash crop as a result of unusually high rainfall experienced last season.
Cotton farmers who spoke to theCooperator said the excessive rain led to a delay in the cotton harvest in Kasese, thereby negatively affecting the quality of the crop and ultimately resulted in reduced prices.
According to Adrian Katwetegeke, the in-charge of the Uganda Cotton Development Authority at Nyakatonzi Cooperative Union in Kasese, over the last two seasons the price of cotton has dropped from between Shs. 30,000 – 35,000 a barrel to Shs 20,000 currently due climatic conditions.
“Cotton is one of the crops that require a little rain, but for the last two years, Kasese and Uganda, in general, have been experiencing too much rain, leading to low production,” Katwetegeke noted.
Moreover, he added, the overabundant rainfall affects farmers’ ability to spray their crop on time.
“Spraying must be done on time in order to have the desired effect. Our farmers often wait to be told that their gardens are due for spraying, especially when it is raining a lot. By the time they are ready to do it, it is too late for them to save the gardens.”
Enock Nyabwangu, a farmer revealed that cotton needs a moderate amount of water for optimal growth. He says a good cotton plant should produce twenty or more flowers per season.
“However, this season, each plant has only 10-15 flowers. This means that the profit will be less than what we used to get due to climatic conditions ‘, Nyabwangu said.
Nyabwangu and Elias Muhingo, another farmer, advocated for the establishment of irrigation schemes in order to increase cotton production in Kasese and Rubirizi districts.
“Irrigation would help farmers plant cotton during the dry season and reduce the dependence on nature,” the duo said.
Kasese district established a mini irrigation scheme in Katholu in order to help cotton farmers produce even during the dry season, but a lot more needs to be done to maximize its benefit to the farmers, according to the district Chairperson Geoffrey Sibendire.
Cotton growing tips
Lilian Kiiza, a Cotton Extension Officer in Kasese, revealed the principles that farmers need to follow if they are to maximize benefits from growing cotton.
“They need to follow five principles,” she stressed. “Ensure early land preparation, then plant, thin, weed, and spray it on time.”
Kiiza also advised farmers to engage extension workers for advisory services, including getting guidance on the correct pesticides and other inputs to use.
“The challenge is that farmers buy pesticides from shops without any advisory services on how and when to apply them, which ends up affecting their crop. They should make use of available extension services for better yields,” she said.
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