Global: The Cotton Business Forum opened in Yaounde with a plea from the United States Ambassador to Cameroon in favour of biotechnology.
Participants at the first ever Cotton Business Forum that opened in Yaounde yesterday, February 24 were privy to the merits of biotechnology as a low cost and sustainable solution to improve on competitiveness in the cotton/textile sector in Central Africa.
Arguing to this effect in a thought-provoking keynote address to participants who came from several countries, the Ambassador of the United States of America, Robert P. Jackson underscored the fact that cotton production in Cameroon had declined by over 50 per cent in the last five years although 300,000 Cameroonian families continue to depend on cotton. "Improving the lives of so many people comes down to improving production - Cameroon needs more cotton," he held. He suggested agricultural biotechnology to increase production and take advantage of the record high global cotton prices currently offered in world markets. Biotechnology, he said, has a 15-year track record of safe use and proven benefits. Taking the example of India, he disclosed that its cotton farmers introduced biotech cotton in 2002 and by 2008, had doubled production, generating more income and transforming the country from a cotton importer to a cotton exporter with a vibrant textile industry.
A solution that suggested the seriousness with which participants started the forum intended to develop local production systems and cotton/textile company networks in Central Africa; a sub-region which produces cotton in three countries
Highlighting the importance of the cotton/textile industry in Cameroon, earlier, the Minister of Industries, Mines and Technological Development, Badel Ndanga Ndinga stated that it contributed significantly to the creation of wealth, employment and to the diversification of trade. "The sector occupies the third place among industrial sectors and contributes 11 per cent to added value of the manufacturing sector; while contributing 9,5 per cent to global industrial production," he said. He attributed the fragility of cotton/textile sector development to factors such as the little size of the internal market, the low level of technologies used and synergy between producers as well as unfair competition and dumping. To solve these problems, the Minister said Cameroon has put in place investment incentives, funding institutions, upgrading programmes and plans to set up an industrial strategy whose objective will consist of increasing the value of locally-produced cotton.
Cotton is mostly produced in the northern part of Cameroon by over 200,000 producers under the canopy of the Cotton Development Company, SODECOTON. It produced 111,000 metric tonnes of cotton in 2010 and targets a production figure of 150,000 tonnes in 2011 as a result of a new programme.
The Cotton Business Forum continues with more round tables aimed sharing experiences to guide the revamping of the cotton sector in Central Africa