Michael Tome-Business Reporter
THE value of exports from Zimbabwe’s cotton to clothing value-chain industry grew by 132 percent in 2021, earning the country US$102,2 million in export revenue.
This represented a significant rise from the US$43,9 million the country achieved in the comparable period in 2020.
The sector’s exports were mainly driven by cotton lint and cotton yarn exports, which increased to US$85,7 million in 2021 from US$29,1 million the prior year.
Clothing and textile exports value also increased to US$16,9 million in 2021 from US$14,9 million in 2020
These are noteworthy figures given the dip in production and value of cotton exports during the decade with the lowest cotton yield of 28 000 tonnes having been recorded in the 2015-16 season (peak production of 350 000kg was realised in 2012).
The growth was, however, largely attributable to the notable Government support through Cottco, which has revived yield levels in the sector.
It, therefore, remains pertinent for the Government and cotton sector players to step up efforts to value add the raw cotton that is currently making the bulk of exports from the sector in order to increase earnings from cotton to clothing value-chain exports.
A recent survey shows that Zimbabwe uses 30 percent of locally grown cotton and 70 percent is exported to textile industries dotted around the world hence, failing to exploit competitive advantage in the cotton value chain considering the country’s ability to grow the raw material locally.
It should however be noted that the sector has been bedevilled by a myriad of teething troubles since the turn of the millennium which left cotton being grown almost entirely by small-scale farmers. Poor prices and low support for cultivation of the crop resulted in a plunge of production, also affected by limited modernisation and poor management of some key plants.
Resultantly, there were multiple closures and downsizing of factories along the cotton value chain as most companies were unable to remain competitive.
This paved the way for imports and currently the local fabric market is now dominated by imports, particularly from China, Pakistan and India.
Clothing companies now import garments worth millions of US dollars, rendering the textile industry redundant since the traditional model of the integrated cotton value chain in Zimbabwe is no longer able to withstand external competition pressures.
Commenting on the growth in exports of the cotton value chain, national trade development and promotion entity, ZimTrade said, “To increase earnings from cotton to clothing value-chain exports, there is need to step up efforts to value-add the raw cotton that is currently making the bulk of exports from the sector.”
Cotton was one of the crops grown as a primary input for the country’s textile and clothing sector before independence.
By 1940 the crop was grown as part of an integrated value chain from production, ginning, to textile manufacture, up to weaving of apparel.
It was considered an appropriate industrialisation medium where the cotton value chain industry could use locally available resources.
Given the need to grow exports the sector is one of the low-hanging fruits which can be resuscitated and developed into a massive export earnings vehicle.