Te perspective for growth in the hydrocarbon-based alternative to cotton can only get better. This is against the backdrop that the rising demand for clothing materials may stretch cotton supply to the limit. Despite the
discovery of this substitute, cotton still continues to be highly relevant as the demand for natural fibres continues to increase and cotton remains the primary natural fibre used within the clothing sector. For non-clothing use, however, demand for artificial fibres is increasing. In the medium-term, given the economic and demographic projections, global consumption of all textile fibre projected to increase by roughly 2.3 percent per year in 2010 should, by now, have exceeded 62 million tons, earlier projected for about a decade ago.
The diverse modes of liberalisation and their impacts on the cotton and textile industry cannot be ignored. Liberalisation of the cotton sector, observed in most of the countries, was the result of a number of homogeneous trends.
On one hand, state corporations have been gradually transferring a number of functions (research and development activities, production standards, inputs supply, production and primary collection of cotton and ginning activities) to the farmers’ unions or other private actors.
This alone has contributed in no small measure in leading the sector down the slope. The revival of the textile industry in Nigeria requires urgent interventions, cutting across government policies, institutional supports, finance, market reforms, research, and development. Fundamental to the reforms of the cotton and textile industry in Nigeria is a vibrant seed sub-sector. The decline in cotton production was further compounded by the inadequate release of seeds to farmers as well as insufficiency and poor quality of seeds. These must be addressed qualitatively and quantitatively.
Our seed companies must respond well to the challenge. We need to facilitate the establishment of world-class seed processing plants in the first instance.
Farmers must be at the centre of any intervention aimed at repositioning the textile industry, in Nigeria and Africa. The perennial lack of adequate inputs, dependence on manual farm operations, poor pricing policy, activities of middlemen, poor product standards, effects of climate change, poor roads infrastructure and lack of security are afflictions that need to be cured in a committed manner. Input support services will expedite the cotton industry’s rebound. Nigeria and indeed Africa must engage in technology transfer, particularly from other
countries, embark on use of fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides, and agricultural extension workers for yield improvement, in ways that make it a game-changer in the revival of our textile
Collaboration through Public-Private Partnership is very much needed in this sector to tap into the combined strength and synergy between the public and private sector practitioners. We need to influence decisions in a number of areas, notably on price fixing, quality, modern technology, environment and sustain-
able production. Increase in cotton production in some parts of the world has benefitted from the deployment and use of modern biotechnology. The adoption of Bt cotton, which has helped China, US, India, Brazil and Burkina Faso should be part of the continental and national strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change
and boost production.
Across Africa, we need a robust platform for knowledge sharing and solution to problems that have trans-boundary impacts. We need to acknowledge the economic values of the utilisation of other co-products of cotton processing, specifically cottonseed oil for cooking, cotton seed cake for feeding livestock, poultry and aquaculture as well as cotton seed shell for power generation.
In Africa, increase in capacity utilisation is desirable and indeed an imperative. This is crucial to the revival of the sector. Recently, India, the second largest textile producer in the world after China, announced a $1 billion
US$ 1.7 trillion, constituting around two percent of the world’s GDP, with EU, USA and China having a combined share of approximately 54 percent. The leaders in this industry operate mechanised cotton farming. The global apparel market size is expected to reach US$ 2.6 trillion in 2025, growing at a projected rate of four percent.
The contemporary geography of African cotton is quite different from the reality that prevailed in the 1960s. Following the wave of nations’ independence, West Africa accounted for an average of only 15 percent of African
production compared to nearly 40 percent for Egypt and 20 per cent for East Africa. The pervasive droughts in the Eastern and Southern Africa in 2017 was a cause for concern as dry weather, leading to poor harvest, might recur, with dire consequences for food crops as well as non-food crops such as cotton.
Significant challenges will have to be overcome to achieve the level of agricultural productivity required to meet the production volume of food, fibre, and fuel in 2050. Mechanisation is one factor that has had a significant effect on Total Factor Productivity since the beginning of modern agriculture. Mechanised harvesting, for example, was a key factor in increasing cotton production in the last century in those leading producer countries. In the future,
mechanisation will also have to contribute to better management of inputs, which will be critical to increasing Total Factor Productivity in global production.
Mechanisation must be treated as an imperative rather than an option if Africa is to compete favourably in the global cotton-textile value chain. Policies and investment interventions across the continent must address this all-important issue. A 1980 survey of the impact of mechanisation in India, covering 815 farming households in 85 villages, showed an increase of 72 percent in sorghum and seven percent in cotton as compared to those who used traditional bullocks. We thus need a robust mechanisation intervention in form of irrigation to boost production reliably.
West Africa occupies a modest place, with the region ranking fifth in the world and contributing only five percent of global cotton production. But production within the region depends largely on small-scale farmers using manual
labour. It is projected that the major growth drivers of the global apparel market will be the developing economies. Nigeria, and indeed Africa, should aspire to have a significant share of this market. But how far can they go without mechanisation?
Africa produces about 100 varieties of cotton grains, with the history stretching centuries back.
This also meant that climatic factors were very important in the varieties cultivated. In countries with low rainfall, therefore, cotton must be irrigated as done for most of the areas cultivated in Egypt and Morocco. By contrast, however, sub-Saharan Africa cotton production is mainly rain-fed, as dry and humid seasons alternate.
Of the six cotton basins in Africa, the largest in the West African basin, stretching from
Senegambia to South-Eastern Chad and to the heart of the Central African Republic. It accounts for nearly two-thirds of Africa’s total cotton production. West Africa is very significant in cotton production and textile industry in Africa.
Out of the 12 leading African cotton-producing countries, eight are in West Africa. The rest of Africa’s cotton is distributed among four zones along a North-South strip stretching from the
Nile Valley to South Africa.
To compete, therefore, there must be a sea change in approach to cotton business, cutting across the entire value chain from the soil to the factory. In between, factors such as input supply, logistics, post-harvest handling,
human capital, finance, processing and price competitiveness all require deep introspection and practical actions if the cotton-textile and garment industry in the continent is to return to the true reckoning.
This is the third and final part of the series.