Between the 2018-2019 season and today, the cultivated areas have 10,000 hectares. South Africa is a very small producer country on an African and even regional scale, behind Zimbabwe and Zambia. So if its surface area thereby decreases, what future for the sector?
From our correspondent in Johannesburg,
The harvest is taking place in South African cotton fields, mainly in the Limpopo and Northern Cape regions, on only 17,000 hectares, which is 40% less compared to the 2018-2019 season when South Africa had 41713 ha of cotton. The estimated production is also down: 80,200 cotton bales for this season against 134,000 bales last season.
Farmers have avoided cotton, and there are several reasons for this.
A cyclical disinterest
First a meteorological factor. In South Africa, the majority of cotton cultivation is not irrigated and therefore depends on precipitation. In recent seasons, the weather was not favorable for planting. Farmers have chosen other crops. Among them: corn, soybeans and sunflowers, driven by high prices in the market. Conversely, cotton has subtle consequences from the pandemic. As of April 2, 2020, the price of a pound of cotton was worth 59 cents compared to about 88 cents today.
Another more technical reason. South African cotton producers complain that they do not have access to the latest agricultural technology, varieties, more resistant, productive species. Multinational farms do not open up to the South African market, which is considered too small.
Cotton still has a future in South Africa
Should we be worried about this downturn? No, according to Henni Bruwer, head of Cotton SA, which represents the sector. First and foremost because it is cyclical: farmers are businessmen who seek the best opportunity from year to year. The increase in cotton prices and the resumption of economic activity after covid should revive the crop. US Department of Agriculture predicts increase in global cotton consumption by 3.5% for the season 2021-2022.
Another good reason to believe in the return of cotton to South Africa: exchange rates. The dollar, the cotton currency, has been losing value against the South African rand for eight months, which has benefited local producers.
In conclusion, the rise in cotton prices, its global consumption and a favorable exchange rate should encourage South African farmers to rejoin white gold.