A R200-million programme by South Africa has successfully revived the country’s cotton industry by unlocking private sector investments and buying power worth hundreds of millions. The programme, known as Sustainable Cotton Cluster and funded by the department of trade and industry (DTI), will end in March, when a decision will be taken on its extension.
One such investment is the R72-million Loskop Cotton ginnery outside Marble Hall in Limpopo, which has just started operating and will enable further cotton production in the region and offer employment to local people.
Further industry investments have been made in another ginnery as well as 11 cotton strippers and 24 cotton pickers. These big machines cost up to R10 million each.
The programme started five years ago with in-depth research to determine the demand, the state of each element in the whole supply chain and ways of optimising production, according to South African media reports.
When retailers got on board the programme, funding became much more readily available and as a result, cotton production has grown from 25 000 bales of lint in 2013 to more than 200 000 bales in the past season.
The number of small-scale farmers in the Marble Hall area alone grew from not more than 10 to 240.
The cluster has also promoted and trained producers in the sustainable principles and methods of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and 40 per cent of the cotton farmers are now BCI licensed.
For the past season 32 per cent of the lint bales are BCI-compliant, which is of further appeal to the global cotton market.
For retailers supporting the local industry, however, it makes absolute sense as it would mean more flexibility to adjust to fashion trends and market demand, which reduces risk.
The one factor that currently limits growth in production is the availability of funding, especially for small-scale farmers who rent communal land.