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Competitiveness of African cotton sector could benefit from implementation of realistic goals
Feb '09
The Sixth Open Session during the 67th Plenary Meeting of the ICAC on November 17-21, 2008 in Ouagadougou discussed the topic of “Competitiveness of African Cotton Production”. From political, agronomic, industrial and commercial points of view, African cotton industries must set realistic goals, mobilize necessary technical and financial resources, combat direct subsidies to production provided in other countries, improve research, training, yields, quality of seeds and fiber, improve the provision of inputs, financing, transfer of technology, and logistics, reduce contamination, and achieve wider use of high volume instruments (HVI). It is also necessary to promote African cotton, and ensure the sanctity of contracts in order to improve marketing.

In liberalized cotton economies in Africa, the lack of regulatory frameworks has led to reduced quality and disruptions in agronomy, ginning, shipping, and increased contamination. Meeting participants called for faster transfer of Bt technology in Africa, increased funding for research and development and wider use of drought tolerant, disease resistant varieties to improve productivity.

The need to improve market access, infrastructure and roads was highlighted. Any liberalization should take into account lessons already learned in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. There was a consensus that volumes of production and profitability of producers should be used as major criteria in measuring the success of reforms in the sector. A regulatory framework should be prepared before reforms are launched, while liberalization should be implemented gradually, taking into account the interests of all market participants and assuring a stable flow of investments, input credit and extension services.

For successful, competitive cotton production, strong adherence by producers and ginners to a well-defined set of rules is needed, and governments must provide legislation in a liberalized environment to protect investors' and farmers' interests. Strong measures to prevent side-selling by cotton farmers without repaying input credits are needed. Strong industry organizations for both cotton ginners and cotton farmers could play an important role, and governments should provide legislative and regulatory support to self regulation of industry organizations.

The achievement of these conditions, adjusted for specific situations in each country, will lead to higher competitiveness of African cotton in international markets. The ICAC will continue a constructive discussion in international forums of privatization/ liberalization strategies in Africa, and other aspects of improving competitiveness and the sustainability of profitable cotton production in Africa.

International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC)

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