Nigeria, which used to be Africa’s leading cotton producer and 12th largest in the world, is to accounts for a paltry 20.29% of Africa’s cotton production by 2029. The country’s share of African’s cotton production by the end of 2020 stood at 27.89% which when compared with projected Africa’s cotton production share in 2029, is expected to decline by about 7.60%. This is based on OECD-FAO Agricultural outlook 2020 report sighted by MSMEsToday.
Over the years, Nigeria’s cotton production has been on the downward trend as cotton output nose-dived by 91.53% to 51,000 metric tons in 2020 from its peak of 602,440 metric tons in 2010. Export earnings from cotton in Nigeria also plunged too significantly to N866 million in the third quarter of 2020 from N1.71 billion in 2010.
Experts in the agriculture sector are agreed that Nigeria’s cotton cultivation is challenged in various ways, ranging from low yield from lack of high yielding cottonseeds, to pest damage and weak demand. Policymakers admit that low yields have contributed to the decline of productivity in the industry. This has resulted in a number of initiatives focused on providing farmers with quality cottonseeds to boost productivity.
In 2015, the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) offered cotton farmers about 5.82 metric tons of SAMCOT 7’ 8’ 9’ 10’ 11’ and 12’cottonseeds, in collaboration with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), under the auspices of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN). This distribution yielded an approximately 5% uptick in cotton production in the country between 2015 and 2017.
Cotton is also a focus commodity under the Anchor Borrower Program initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The program provides small-scale farmers with necessary inputs in cash and in-kind services to enhance productivity. Most cotton farmers in Nigeria are typically small- holder farmers who cannot afford the cost of inputs. In May 2019, the governor of the CBN launched the distribution of cottonseeds to 150,000 cotton farmers in Katsina state, the leading cotton-producing state in the country. The farmers were also offered other inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and knapsack sprayers with the hope of improving yields of cultivated cotton to four metric tons from the current one metric ton per hectare.
Furthermore, CBN also intervened in the Cotton, Textile and Garment sector with the aim of resuscitating and returning the textile industry back to its glory days of creating jobs, achieving self-sufficiency in cotton production; minimizing and eradicating smuggling and dumping of textile goods and facilitating foreign reserve uptake and leading the charge in the diversification of the nation’s economy by investing over N120bn across CTG value chain; financed over 320,000 farmers between 2018-2020. The expected output for seed cotton in 2020 is as a result of the apex bank’s intervention is projected to be over 300,000 metric tons.
Despite the identified efforts, cotton production in Nigeria remains remarkably low compared to other African countries like Burkina Faso and Mali. Cotton is an important export crop for Sub-Saharan Africa, which currently accounts for 15% of global exports (with West Africa accounting for almost 75% of the region’s production and shipments). Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire, the leading producing countries, have seen their volumes expanding due to area expansion and government support.
Globally, cotton production is projected to grow 1.5% per annul to reach 30 million metric tonnes in 2029 which is expected to come from an expansion of the cotton area by 0.5% per annum as well as growth in average global yields of 1.0% per annum. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s share of the global cotton production is to decline from 0.19% in 2020 to 0.17% in 2029.
Considering various government intervention measures, the sustainability of these measures, aimed at reviving cotton production in Nigeria, is limited considering experiences in other cotton-producing countries. Pesticides increase the input cost of cotton farming which has implications on farmers’ profits and has also been found to be detrimental to the environment. Instead, the adoption of genetically modified cottonseeds, like Bt cotton, is associated with better pest control, high cotton yield and improved revenue. This has been found to be a common factor in the success stories of leading cotton-producing countries like India and Burkina Faso.