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How East Africa can raise its cotton exports

The two institutions have been locked in a legal tussle since 2019 over breach of a 36-month contract for inspection of used motor vehicles destined to Tanzania from the United Kingdom
By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. As the annual budgets were read in some of the East African Community (EAC) Parliaments yesterday, a call has been made to boost cotton exports.

The six EAC partner states in the bloc were told exports will rise by promoting the value chain in the entire cotton industry, including textiles manufacturing.

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The bloc’s current raw cotton exports to world markets stand at only eight percent despite the huge potential for cotton exports.

“We need to harness science, technology and innovation to boost exports,” said Kevit Desai, the Kenya principal secretary (PS) for EAC.

Desai told reporters here on Wednesday, the PS said the region produces 100,000 tonnes of cotton against the annual potential of 400,000 tonnes.

“To increase the volume of exports, value chains such as textiles need to be promoted,” he said at the EAC headquarters in Arusha.

This, he added, can also be achieved if the region invested in greater capacity to produce leather and textiles.

He said increased investment in the leather and textile sectors would cater for the growing demand in the region for locally manufactured clothes and leather products.

Dr Desai is the current chair of the EAC Coordination Committee that brings together principal/permanent secretaries from the EAC Affairs ministries.

He disclosed that intra-EAC trade currently stands at 15 percent which he described as “very low” compared to other regional economic blocs.

He, nevertheless, said it was encouraging that a regional confederation for the agricultural sector for EA has been established.

“We need to expand the horizon as far as trade is concerned. There is a need for greater consolidation to increase the region’s exports to external markets,” he said.

He played down the impact of protectionism of the national economies by the EAC governments, saying the trend was natural.

However, he said despite the challenges, some EAC partner states were committed to open up markets and boost intra-regional trade. While the combined cotton production in EA stood at 10,000 tonnes, Tanzania’s output for 2020/2021 was affected by excessive rains.

About 95 percent of Tanzania’s cotton is grown in the northwest regions of Simiyu (47 percent)), Shinyanga (13 percent) and Mwanza (ten percent). Other regions are Geita and Tabora (nine percent each) and Mara six percent. The rest is grown in Singida, Manyara, Morogoro and elsewhere.

Cotton in Tanzania is mainly grown by smallholder farmers whose number ranges from 350,000 to 500,000 depending on the season.

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