Cotton farmers in East Acholi are excited about the record-high price of cotton, which has hit Shillings 3,000 a kilogram after a decade. The last time cotton cost this much was in 2011.
In September, the Cotton Development Organization-CDO announced the indicative price of a kilogram of cotton at Shillings 2,000 to help regulate its farm gate price and eliminate exploitation of farmers by middlemen.
Peter Okello, a cotton farmer in Abam East Village in Abera Parish in Palabek Abera Sub-county in Lamwo district, says that he planted four acres of cotton and harvested 1,000 kilograms, which gave him Shillings 3 million.
“This is the highest amount of money I have gotten from the sale of cotton since I started growing it seven years ago,” Okello said.
Okello says it is unfortunate that many farmers lost interest last year when the flood destroyed their cotton and the price was also low at between Shillings 1,500 and 1,800.
“There is need to stabilize the price of agricultural produce, to stop the tendency of farmers getting driven by the ever-fluctuating price,” Okello said.
Jackson Loweo, another cotton farmer in Ngomlac Village in Palabek Gem sub-county, Lamwo district, says the price started rising in September with Shillings 2,700 per kilogram and by November, it had risen to Shillings 3,000 per kilogram.
Loweo is happy that last year’s price did not dampen his spirit into abandoning the cash crop. Last year, Loweo planted two acres and harvested 700 kilograms, which he sold at Shilling 1,700 per kilogram because floods affected the yield.
“The price of cotton is good and farmers who did not plant this year are regretting they did not listen. Now the price of cotton is almost the same as that of the simsim. People make that mistake always; when the price drops, they get discouraged. But every business has its ups and downs. And if you get discouraged each time there is a challenge then that means you are not yet serious about the business,” Loweo says.
This year, Loweo expects to get a minimum of 2,000 kilograms of lint cotton from his harvest this will translate to Shillings 6 million. He is optimistic that the price of cotton will rise even higher because very few farmers planted it.
He says because of the low cotton price last year, the number of cotton farmers in the district reduced from more than 12,000 to just about a half with 676 acres planted. Douglas Bhosopo, the seeds inspector at Uganda Cotton Ginners and Exporters Association, says the high price of cotton has been driven by a high low production because of weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bhospo says the high cotton price is good news for farmers, saying it would have been better if the cotton yield wasn’t affected by the long dry spell. He says places such Omiya Anyima and Namukora sub-counties in Kitgum district and parts of Lagoro in Lamwo district were greatly affected by sunshine, which made many farmers plant late.
According to Bhosopo, the four districts in East Acholi which comprise Kitgum, Lamwo, Agago, and Pader, planted 34,000 acres of cotton but they expect only 25,000 bales down from 40,000 bales last year.
According to the CDO, cotton is the third-largest export crop in the country, providing a livelihood for 250,000 households countrywide.