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Tanzanian cotton output gaining in strength
Dec '10
Cotton was introduced to Tanzania by German settlers in 1904, but the initial crops failed. Reintroduced in 1920s by the British; significant growth was achieved after local research developed pest resistant strains in 1930s.

Cotton is grown on farmland on around 560,000 hectares by between 350-500,000 small holding farmers. It is estimated that 50 percent of Tanzania's population is to some extent dependent upon revenue from cotton.

Majority of farmers produce cotton on less than 1 hectare plots; larger farmers generally have 2-5 hectare plots and 60 percent of the area is allocated to food crops. Average cotton yield varies between 750 to 800 kg per hectare.

The cotton growing regions in Tanzania include; Western Cotton Growing Area (WCGA – sub-regions of Shinyanga, Mwanza, Mara, Tabora, Singida, Kagera, Kigoma) and where 98 percent of cotton is grown in Tanzania and other is the Eastern Cotton Growing Area (ECGA – sub-regions of Morogoro, Manyara, Coast, Tanga, Iringa, Kilimanjaro). Shinyanga & Mwanza together produce over 80 percent of Tanzania's total cotton crop.

In WCGA region, the planting season is between mid-November to mid-December and in the western fringes, late planting continues till end January; harvesting and marketing begins in July of following year and in the ECGA, planting is done between February and March, while harvesting and marketing is between July and August of the same year.

When considering cotton output, it touched 44,000 tons in 2006-07, 67,000 tons in 2007-08 and nearly doubled to 124,000 tons in 2008-09. Figures for 2009-10 are not yet available. These figures accounted for 49, 51 and 75 percent, respectively, when compared with cotton output of East African countries and constituted for 3.6, 6.1 and 12.2 percent, when corresponded with cotton production for the whole African continent.

The main cotton grown in Tanzania is “American upland” (Gossypium Hirsutum). Tanzania cotton is sold on the basis of “grade”, together with the corresponding staple length known as “type”. Basic selling grade is “Gany” as adopted by the International Cotton Association (ICA). Cotton between staple length 28.2-28.7 mm accounts for 36.17 percent of the annual output, 27.4 - 27.9 mm accounts for 50.56 percent and the rest is accounted for by lengths between 26.7-27.2 mm.

The competitive strengths of Tanzanian cotton are that it is available within the medium staple length range of between 26.7-28.7 mm, is handpicked and over 82 percent grade is middling and above, with more than 50 percent, being roller ginned with low NEP and short fibre content.

Of which, over 95 percent is within the prime micronaire range of 3.5 - 4.9, high uniformity ratio of 81-85 percent and fibre strength ranging between 25 and 29 gms / tex, both of which are ideal for high speed spinning technology.

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