In the 2017/18 season, global cotton production rose by 17% to 26.8 million tonnes, following the 7% increase in production of the previous season. The forecast for 2018/19 season predicts a slight dip of 2% to 26.3 million tonnes. This slight decrease in production is attributable to the reduction of area under cotton coupled with no improvement in yields.
This came out of the 77th Plenary Meeting of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) which recently took place in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. The global giants in seed cotton production remain the big three, India, China and the United States of America with Brazil and Pakistan fourth and fifth respectively.
The only African country in the top ten cotton producing countries is Burkina Faso, this shows that African cotton production remains very low and a lot of effort needs to be put in the cotton sector to turn this situation around. The anticipated high cotton prices and better expected returns from cotton compared to competing crops would suggest area expansion.
Notwithstanding this, several major producing countries will have reduced area under cotton due to ongoing pest issues, adverse weather conditions, water availability and changes in government policies. Closer to home in the SADC region, the predicted El Nino phenomenon will probably exacerbate adverse weather conditions and many farmers may end up opting to put more area under food crops such as maize.
Global cotton area is currently projected at 33.6 million hectares representing a 1% decrease from the previous season. The global cotton production average sits at 788 kg/ha, 413 kg/ha for Africa and much lower at 252 kg/ha for eastern and southern Africa. These figures for Africa and more so for southern Africa suggest that there is something that the region is not doing right.
Lessons could be drawn from West Africa; whose average production of 426 kg/ha is almost double that of eastern and southern Africa. Increased investments and government support in both primary production and processing are instruments seemingly working to boost cotton production in the west African region.