Although South Africa’s cotton industry celebrated production growth of 800% over the preceding five years in 2019, the industry has shown a 40% decrease in hectares planted to the crop during the past two seasons.
Hennie Bruwer, CEO of Cotton South Africa (Cotton SA), said in a recent newsletter that this was due to several factors, including weather conditions, a lack of access to new cultivars, and many farmers turning to food crops due to more favourable prices.
Cotton SA’s market report for March indicated that in the 2019/2020 season, just over 27 670ha of cotton had been planted, while this season’s plantings amounted to almost 16 790ha.
Currently, the estimated crop for 2020/2021 was just over 80 000 lint bales, far lower than the 134 230 lint bales harvested last season.
Dolf van der Westhuizen, GWK’s cotton gin manager, told Farmer’s Weekly that there was great concern among ginners about the decline in cotton plantings.
“The fewer hectares planted, the less cotton there is to fluff and the smaller our income. There’s also a certain number of tons that a gin needs to at least break even and meet its obligations. Like any business, if it doesn’t meet these requirements, it’ll be in trouble.”
Bruwer said the cotton industry was certain, however, that by addressing the internal challenges, growth could be restored in the 2021/2022 season and beyond.
The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) indicated that the global cotton production estimate had been revised down to 24,1 million tons, while global cotton mill-use was estimated at 24,5 million tons.
ICAC noted that global cotton use was expected to increase 8% in 2020/2021 as manufacturing activities continued to show signs of recovery.
“Lower stock levels provide additional support for prices [that] have increased over the course of the current season, supported by falling production and rising consumption,” the report said.
Responding to Farmer’s Weekly’s questions, Cotton SA said a decrease in cotton hectares could be attributed partly to local ginners.
“One of the bigger issues for producers over the past season was the delay in the ginning and marketing of the previous season’s crop, which caused insecurity and [affected] the trust relationships between some of the ginners and producers. This has been addressed, and we’re hopeful to again see an increase in the [area] planted in the coming season.”
At the end of March, the season’s average price stood at R25,96/kg, compared with the previous season’s average of R22,94/ kg.