Cotton SA recently hosted a regional workshop in partnership with the United Nations conference on trade and development (UNCTAD), promoting cotton by-products in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The two-day workshop, held at the Premier Hotel OR Tambo Johannesburg from 28 to 30 May 2019, was attended by 70 delegates, 50 of whom were international delegates. The two-day workshop was followed by a tour to Marble Hall on the 31st, visiting a small-scale farmer, a commercial farmer and a cotton gin.

Cotton by-products boost farming income

“The project, implemented by UNCTAD in collaboration with both the United Nations economic commission for Africa (UNECA) and COMESA, is aligned with regional and global efforts to support Africa’s economic diversification through value addition,” said Stephen Karingi, director of regional integration and trade, United Nations economic commission for Africa (ENECA). He also mentioned that “the importance of the cotton sector to African economies cannot be overemphasized, and it includes the value chain from seed cotton to textiles and other by-products such as cottonseed oil and seed cake.”

The results of the three-year programme, implemented by UNCTAD, show that cotton by-products provide great possibilities with regards to obtaining a higher income with new opportunities for cotton farmers. “As cotton is a high input cost crop, every possible opportunity must be investigated to increase the value of cotton at farm level.

“Through value addition of cotton by-products such as briquettes and pellets made from cotton stalks, hygienic cotton products such as absorbent cotton, and utilising cottonseed oil, new opportunities can be created that can contribute to the profitability of cotton and job creation at farm level,” commented Hennie Bruwer, CEO of Cotton SA.

A growing contribution towards sustainable development

During roundtable discussions, distinguished experts reflected on the potential for cotton by-products to contribute to sustainable development in African cotton-producing countries and identified what is necessary to realise viable businesses and markets for cotton by-products. High level topics, such as national level challenges, government policies, knowledge and technology required for manufacturing identified cotton by-products, as well as specific detailed proposals for projects were discussed.

Lessons learnt were also shared amongst the ‘Cotton-4’ (Zimbabwe, Uganda, Zambia and Mozambique). “There was an openness between the parties involved. This openness is very powerful to grow the industry going forwards,” added Yanchun Zhang, chief of the commodities branch of UNCTAD.

In response to the question, as the three-year program is nearing the end, what is the way forward? Kris Terauds, economic affairs officer of UNCTAD answered that “there are two ways that can be pursued. The first is, to take commercial niches that were developed in the countries and accompany them as best we can in finding new partners, in finding the help needed to implement those initiatives.

“The second is, we now have a joint initiative with two other trade institutions, both in Geneva, the WTO and the ITC. Together we’ve been trying to coordinate our technical assistance activities on cotton by-products. This new initiative will be able to take up some of the ideas that have been developed to carry the project further.” – Press release, Cotton SA