Monday, December 28, 2009

Beira Port awaits Malawi Cotton

AS the wrangle over this year’s cotton prices rages on back home, Mozambican ports have already started preparing for the arrival of Malawi cotton.
This is true for Cornelder de Mozambique, the port authority for Beira. The company, owned by Cornelder Holding and the Mozambican Port and Railways has a 25 year-long concession spanning from 1998 to 2021.
Orlando Belo, Cornelder de Mozambique’s Operations Director, disclosed in an interview the port was now ready for Malawi cotton.
“We have done a lot of infrastructural planning, and part of this involved handling preparations for Malawi cotton, which usually starts trickling in by August. In fact, we expect a lot of cotton next month (August),” said Belo.
Belo said the port authority knew nothing about the cotton wrangle in Malawi, and would press ahead with preparations for the country’s cotton.
Cotton is one of the cargos, alongside tobacco, tea, and cotton, which pass through the port of Beira.
Last year, 101 thousand metric tonnes of cotton passed through the port, while 208 metric tonnes of Toor hall, 281 metric tonnes of sugar and 1, 321 metric tonnes of tea passed through the port.
Tobacco made up for 7, 721 metric tonnes of the cargo.
Government has been legs-and-hands in a battle with cotton buyers, trading under the name Cotton Development Association. Government has set K75 as the minimum cotton buying price this year while the buyers have rocked their coffers tight, opting for between K32 and K36.
Principal Secretary for Agriculture and Food Security, Andrew Daudi, reiterated in an interview the stakes would not be reduced, and hoped the buyers would, for once, toe government’s line.
“We are not relenting on the prices. In fact, government did not just come up with the price; it considered the costs that went into cotton cultivation during the 2008/09 agriculture season,” said Daudi.
Daudi said government’s set prices were meant to improve the social-economic status of Malawian farmers.
Government included some strategic cash crops in last year’s fertilizer subsidy programme, a development cotton buyers feel may have influenced government’s stand.
Accommodation of cash crops in the 2009/10 fertilizer subsidy programme this fiscal year has, however, been scraped in new Finance Minister, Ken Kandodo’s K20.91 budget line, as indicated in his inaugural budget statement.
Samuel Chikuse, a cotton farmer from Bitchai village in the area of Traditional Authority Karonga in Salima, complained in an interview any more delays in opening the cotton market could cost his crop weight and, thus, more financial returns.
“It’s becoming scary for us, farmers. Our appeal is that, should there be no agreement between government and the buyers within the next two weeks, government should just buy the crop from us at the set minimum prices and sell it to international buyers. There are good market opportunities in China,” said Chikuse.
He implored government to stick to its eggs.

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