Agric experts deliberate on reviving cotton industry, Tuesday, June 12, 2012 (spread)

Agricultural experts are meeting in Accra to deliberate on how to revive Ghana’s cotton industry and make it one of the most competitive in Africa.

The two-day workshop, under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNlDO), is aimed at creating awareness of suitable options to increase cotton productivity.

It will also focus on the benefits of crop biotechnology in suitable economic development, with emphasis on insect-tolerant and herbicide-tolerant cotton.

Additionally, it will discuss how to enhance quality through instrument classification of cotton according to international standards and increase the income of cotton farmers and co-operatives through value addition activities, including processing and marketing of cotton seed by-products.

The Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms Sherry Ayittey, who opened the workshop, observed that the negative trend in cotton production in Ghana could be attributed to environmental and agronomical factors militating against the industry.

She said modern biotechnology held the key to solving the problem, saying that through technology, a number of effective interventions had emerged to boost the cotton industry.

“It has been recognised that the application of conventional pesticides and herbicides also has detrimental effects on the health of farmers, while the pesticides are hazardous to the environment. These hazards are reduced when transgenic cotton is cultivated,” she said.

Across the world, one of the cotton varieties being touted as the panacea to low yield and insect invasion is the insect-tolerant variety developed with a gene from the common soil-borne bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Ms Ayittey said that and many other varieties borne from biotechnology were strategic to boosting cotton production and value chain development by cutting down production costs associated with the use of pesticides and weed management.
The UNIDO Representative in Ghana, Mr Frank Van Rompaey, said UNIDO was committed to contributing to restructuring the cotton sector in Ghana through capacity building and improvement in quality, so that the country could benefit substantially from the gains of the global cotton industry.

The intervention, he said, was also necessary to ensure that the country was able to efficiently implement its biosafety regulations to contribute to the sustainable development of the cotton sector in Ghana, while ensuring the conservation of biodiversity.

The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr J.S. Annan, in a speech read on his behalf, said the country needed “the appropriate technology that will make farmers get better returns from their investments, create more jobs, reduce poverty and, in the long run, the processing of Bt Cotton in the textile industries and other downstream industries will be rewarding and improve our competitiveness”.

With Ghana’s cotton industry in a major decline since the 1980s, the government embarked on a Cotton Sector Revival Strategy in 2010 as part of the northern rural growth.

As part of the strategy, UNIDO was invited to assist the government in its efforts at reviving the cotton industry.

Currently, Ghana’s 20,000 tonnes production accounts for one per cent of the total production in West Africa.

The constraints identified along the value chain that negatively affect the performance of the sector include lack of coordination among input providers, farmers, traders and ginners; the absence of a regulatory framework ensuring grading according to international standards and fair price setting and low yields due to inadequate use of inputs.

To this end, a technical assistance programme for revitalising the cotton industry is being developed, in partnership with UNIDO, the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) and the World Bank, with the objective of increasing income generation and employment opportunities in cotton farming communities.


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