Anibe Achimugu is the newly elected President of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) and the Managing Director Arewa Cotton and Allied Products. With over 20 years experience in the Nigerian and international cotton business, he shares with Daily Trust how he intends to move cotton production forward in the country. Excerpts:
As the new national president of the cotton farmers association, what sort of change are we going to see in the subsector?
I hope to bring the sustainable growth of cotton. When I said that, I mean that the quantity and quality of cotton in Nigeria should improve. I hope that members will be proud of being cotton farmers and I hope also that we will be able to add more value to their standards of living. Part of that, of course, is to get better prices and production so that they will feel the benefit of being members of NACOTAN.
How are you going to ensure good prices and ready market for cotton?
One of the interventions of government, which I think will tackle the issue you raised, is this anchor borrowers’ programme, which started with rice. It has now been made to cover other crops which cotton is part of. What I like about it is that the anchor (the processor), will bring to the table farmers he is working with and government is going to mediate by negotiating the cost of production per hectare and if we have done that, we will now agree on the purchase price. I know the price fluctuates, but there will be a range. At least, if you know that the cost of doing one hectare is N70, 000, that is a good base. And then government, under the anchor borrowers’ programme, will fund the processors to be able to buy-off the cotton from the farmers at the agreed price.
When you look at cotton production in Nigeria vis-à-vis other cotton producing African countries, where do you place Nigeria?
In most of the countries-Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Mali, cotton is actually a government-driven sector. In other words, government goes out, give out the seeds, inputs and buy back from the farmers. We need to treat cotton as a national asset, like it is to other countries. Their own cotton sector is like our oil sector. Cotton is their main foreign exchange earner. We also must look at cotton like that.
Will the industry thrive without the resuscitation of the moribund textile industries?
If government, for instance, decides to say that uniforms of the military, para-military and students must be sourced locally, then, some of these companies will come back on stream. Government is a major consumer of fabrics, which are now mostly imported. If government says that it is not going to buy any more from outside the country, our textile industries will be revived.
What is the production level of cotton at the moment?
My challenge with this question is that people throw unverifiable statistics up and down. That’s why I advocate for the strengthening of the subsector’s association to capture variable statistics. All I can say to you, as a ginner, is that the production of cotton last year was very low, compare with the previous years. What has happened is that a lot of farmers have decided to farm soya beans, sesame seeds and so on rather than cotton. So I won’t want to throw figures around because that is what is going on at the moment. I believe that part of the change we will introduce is that we’ll be able to give verifiable statistics. But the production of cotton is very low this season.