Cotton, International Agriculture News

Decline of cotton production in Uganda

When Cotton growing was introduced in Uganda in 1903 by the British Cotton Growers’ Association, Lango sub-region was one of the areas that embraced cotton growing on subsistence scale.

Although the Lango were known for cattle-keeping and food crop growing, the region saw a swift paradigm shift to a new gem of crop that brought economic transformation for many households, including affording formal education for their children.

This was facilitated by farmers’ support by Lint Marketing Board and later Cotton Development Organisation. Other conducive factors included weather pattern, fertile soil, ready market and establishing of generis across the region.

The establishment of Lira Spinning Mill during Obote’s regime further spurred cotton growing given that it created more market demand to meet the high level of production by the mill for internal consumption and external markets in Europe.

However, the fall in cotton production started in the early 1970s to mid-1980s. Civil strife, economic turmoil and poor governance befell Uganda and all activities of the cotton sector were severely affected. Being an annual crop, cotton could not survive and as a result, production drastically dropped.

Besides, the 1990s and 2000s Lord Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency had an enormous impact on farming in Lango and cotton growing was no exception. The cotton industry in Lango was also severely affected by wrangles between major cotton buyers in northern Uganda.

This eventually frustrated farmers who abandoned cotton growing. There was also the rising population that the immense pressure on the land. Farmers started to grow other cash crops, including sunflower, which requires smaller acreage to attain good harvest compared to cotton that requires a large chuck of land if you are to get a good harvest.

But the last nail on the coffin of cotton growing in Lango was the introduction of sunflower, which most farmers adopted after the end of the LRA insurgency. Sunflower growing quickly out-competed cotton growing due to high demand and market for the edible oil.

Apart from the Mukwano Group, which is a major player in sunflower farming as well as the edible oils industry, there is Mount Meru Company and recently Virgin Gold Oil that join the edible oil industry of recently. The three companies engage in cut-throat competition to get sunflower hence they offer competitive prices to farmers.

Therefore, such stiff competition coupled with other challenges that stifled cotton growing out competed the traditional cash crop from the market since sunflower has now turned out to be the new gem to farmers in Lango sub-region.

Andrew Ogwang Kizito,