Cotton revival gains ground in SouthCot

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/28 August) – Some 200 hectares of land in South Cotabato have been planted with cotton in line with the efforts to revive the local cotton industry.

Reynaldo H. Legaste, South Cotabato chief agriculturist, said the Cotton Development Administration (CODA), an agency under the Department of Agriculture, and the Primatex Fibre Corp. have partnered to encourage local farmers to plant cotton.

“Cotton is now grown [again] in parts of T’boli, Polomolok and Tantangan towns. These are in dry-land marginal areas where we discourage the second cropping of corn,” he told MindaNews.

Some 200 farmers in the province have started cultivating cotton anew because of the financing assistance from Primatex, Legaste said.

By the end of the year, farmlands planted with cotton in South Cotabato are expected to reach 500 ha, and 2,000 ha in 2012, he noted.

In nearby Sarangani, there is an estimated 500 ha of farms planted with cotton as a result of reviving the industry, Legaste said.

South Cotabato and Sarangani are two of the four provinces within Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao region.

Local farmers were encouraged to plant cotton after they were assured farm-gate prices ranging from P22 to 24 per kilo, Legaste said.

The cotton industry in South Cotabato has died more than a decade ago apparently due to market problems. By then, it was among the top cotton producers in Mindanao.

Current cotton prices are attractive, which is at least double the P12/kg when the industry died, he said.

Legaste said the market for cotton nowadays has started to pick up, hence the provincial government is helping revive the industry.

Across Southwestern Mindanao, the Department of Agriculture regional office has recently identified 20,000 ha for cotton propagation due to climate and soil suitability.

According to the CODA 2004/2005 cotton industry situationer, the cotton sector is estimated to have contributed P115 million (US$ 2 million at exchange rates then) to the national economy, which is a 58-percent increase from the previous year.

Cotton is cultivated in the three major islands of the country.

During the past 10 years from 2005, production activity was concentrated in Mindanao where it has endured less competition from other crops, the situationer said.

For 2004/05, about 88 percent of the cotton areas are found in Mindanao, while Visayas and Luzon shared 8 percent and 4 percent of the total area, respectively.

In 2005, CODA reported that the country’s cotton production area has gone down to about 4,000 ha from a peak of around 37,000 ha in 1992 after farmers were forced to shift to other crops due to rising prices of pesticides against bollworm infestation. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)