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May 25, 2010
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Burkinabe cotton crop slides, hopes pinned on GM

By
Reuters
Published
May 25, 2010

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso produced 363,000 tonnes of cotton during the 2009/10 season, well under target due to poor rains and low prices, but a goal of 600,000 tonnes has been set for 2010/11, industry officials said.



Initial targets for the 2009/10 crop were around 520,000 tonnes, but they were repeatedly slashed over the year after poor rains, and farmers used fertilisers for food crops rather than cotton due to low farmgate prices.

The figure for the 2009/10 crop was given by Georges Yameogo, secretary general of the Burkinabe professional cotton association, which groups the three main producers and unions.

"Last year was very bad because the rain was very changeable - we had the first rain on June 29 and the last on September 20," Celestin Tiendrebeogo, managing director of grower SOFITEX, told reporters late on Monday 24 May.

"As farmgate prices were low -- 160 CFA francs per kilo - farmers used fertiliser for their maize instead of cotton. Some have completely abandoned cotton. Growing areas dropped nine percent compared to the 2008/09 season," he added.

Cotton is an important crop for Burkina Faso, a poor West African nation. But like neighbouring Mali and Ivory Coast, it has seen production drop due to a combination of erratic weather as well as trade protection measures in bigger producer nations that have spiked global supply and pushed down prices.

Cotton output in Africa has dropped by roughly in half over the past five years, though the African Cotton Association expects output to rise nearly 18 percent next season, in part due to increased use of genetically modified seeds.

Burkinabe farmers are currently planting cotton ahead of the 2010/11 season, ahead of harvesting in October.

Tiendrebeogo said hopes for a spike in output were pinned on a rise in farmgate price to 182 CFA per kg and 6.8 billion CFA in fertiliser subsidies from the government and cotton firms.

"We are (also) encouraging the use of genetically modified cotton because the yield per hectare is far better than that of ordinary cotton," he said.

Officials hope to increase the use of GM cotton to around 80 percent, up from current levels just above 30 percent.

However, many farmers remain sceptical about the readiness of farmers to sow the improve crops due to the cost of the seeds and general malaise with the sector.

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