PARLIAMENT: Cottco grilled for short-changing farmers

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By Reason Razao | Senior Reporter

The Zimbabwe Cotton Company (Cottco) has come under fire from parliamentarians for short changing farmers and failing to deliver cotton inputs in time.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development grilled Cottco chief executive officer Priscilla Mutembwa and group’s chairperson Sifelani Jabangwe, demanding accountability for the company’s dismal performance.

Some cotton farmers are yet to receive their money from Cottco from last season’s yield.

Committee chairperson Saul Maburutse criticized Cottco’s decision to forego paying farmers after it emerged that the group bought luxurious vehicles for its head office.

“When Cottco is failing to pay a farmer, you are busy employing executives, you are busy employing people at the head office and giving them nice cars when a farmer is getting nothing.

“When a manager who is supervising and monitoring the farming of that cotton is walking on foot,”said Maburutse.

Recently the Ministry of Agriculture announced that Cottco will be assisted by the Grain Marketing Board and Arex in distributing cotton inputs, a move that Maburutse has dismissed after the same gambit failed dismally in 2015.

Jabangwe and Mutembwa argued that the company did not oppose the directive from the government.

In response, Maburutse said: “Board chair you cannot simply say we have been given a directive by the minister, who himself does not know anything about cotton.

“Cottco workers, you know that you tried this in 2015 and it never worked. This same thing you are following, it will never work.

“On the ground as we are talking, farmers are resisting to take the inputs from GMB. Are you aware GMB is also having problems paying farmers and even transportation.”

The committee chairperson said farmers are yet to receive inputs despite cotton planting season commencing mid October.

The committee also criticised Cottco’s lack of transparency and accountability and demanded that the company provide a detailed account of its activities and operations.

In recent weeks, Cottco made headlines for failing to pay its employees for the past five months.

The committee expressed concern over Cottco’s failure to address the challenges facing the cotton sector, which has seen a significant decline in production in recent years.