In an attempt to boost the yields and incomes of its cotton growers, the head of Tanzania’s Ministry for Water and Irrigation is encouraging further investigation into the safety of using genetically modified cotton seed.
According to the Tanzania Daily News, Professor Jumanne Maghembe made the comments during a panel discussion at the Africa Green Revolution Forum, which focuses on the application of technology in agriculture. The use of biotech cotton holds even greater potential for growers in Tanzania than it does in most other countries because as much as 40% of the country’s population derives their livelihood from cotton, directly or indirectly.
There is also vicious competition in the cotton buying community, which tends to drive prices up. While that’s good news for growers, the abundance of buyers also means that even low-quality cotton is in high demand. That, combined with a low-quality seed market, has resulted in poor yields, especially in non-irrigated areas.
While the industry faces a number of challenges, help for the Tanzanian cotton industry is on the way. A new variety, UK M08, is expected to improve yields when it is introduced in 2015, and the Tanzanian Cotton Board has been working tirelessly to develop a contract farming system to connect ginners and growers directly via the formation of farmer business groups.