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Interview: Chinese company sees making cotton production more profitable to Malawi farmers as top priority

By Kondwani Magombo (Xinhua)

10:52, October 08, 2011

BALAKA, Malawi, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese owned Malawi Cotton Company (MCC) has said that its core interest is not to make more profit for itself but rather to make cotton production more profitable to the common Malawian farmer and the Malawi government in the process.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Assistant Manager of MCC Xin Jia said that the company generated over 20 million U.S. dollars into the southern African country during the 2010/2011 growing season, expressing his optimism on the future of cotton as the country's foreign exchange earner.

Xin said MCC is making serious investments in cotton industry to support the Malawi government's cotton up-scaling initiative aimed at promoting the production of the crop as a forex earner.

"Malawi Cotton Company is growing by the season despite the high purchasing price of seed cotton and low selling price of the lint," said Xin, adding "We generated over 20 million. U.S. dollars into Malawi during the last growing season and we expect to generate even more this coming season."

Xin said MCC is working tirelessly with the farmers in all the cotton growing districts of the country to ensure that the required quality of cotton is achieved.

"Unlike other cotton ginners in the country who employ field staff during the buying season only, we have over 350 field staff working on permanent basis with our farmers throughout the country. These officers teach the farmers field management and they also oversee the distribution of farm inputs such as seed, fertilizer and chemicals which we supply to our farmers on loan."

"For the country to achieve the required level of production, farmers ought to adopt new farming technologies, crop and field management and this is exactly what we are equipping our farmers with," said the MCC assistant manager.

Xin, however, noted that the recent unprecedented surge in purchasing prices for seed cotton coupled by the low selling prices of the lint on the other hand may impact negatively on the company's profit margin.

But he said that his company's core interest is not to make more profit for itself but rather to make cotton production more profitable to the common Malawian farmers and the Malawi Government in the process.

"Profit is not the only factor we are looking at as Malawi Cotton Company," said Xin. "We exist because of the farmers so we have to make the farmers profit first before we do."

"What's important is for more farmers to get more interested in cotton production and for them to be able to make more profits to help them feed their families and send their children to school, " said Xin, adding that more farmers in the industry would mean more cotton being produced and more profits for the ginners in the long-run.

With its stock volume reaching 18,000 metric tons during the 2010/2011 growing season from 16,000 metric tons during the first year (2008/2009), MCC is also in trial period of cooking oil production to ensure that the crop is fully utilized to the last by-product.

Xin bemoaned the influx of traders in the industry as the main challenge, saying they pose as a threat both to the farmers and the ginners.

"Traders do not invest anything," said Xin "They do not offer any extension services to the farmers. They are just middlemen who take advantage of the farmers and make a big kill out of their (farmers) sweat."

This, he said, may end up in discouraging the farmers and they will eventually stop growing the crop thus killing the industry.

Xin urged the Malawi government to sensitize the farmers at all levels to desist from selling their cotton to traders if cotton industry is to thrive in the developing southern African country.

The MCC assistant Manager said he foresees a vibrant cotton industry in Malawi following the Malawi government's Cotton Scale- up program aimed at increasing cotton production by taking more new farmers on board.

"We entirely support the initiative and we know it will lead to a boom in the cotton industry, which, as MCC, we are ready for, " said Xin.


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