Africa’s Second-Biggest Cotton Producer Expects Record Crop

(Bloomberg) -- Africa’s second-biggest cotton producer is set to harvest a record crop because of good rainfall, and plans to increase this 10 percent next season, the head of Mali’s state-owned company for the fiber said.

“A total output of 725,000 tons is expected this year -- it’s a record high,” Modibo Kone, chief executive officer of the Compagnie Malienne pour le Developpement du Textile, said in an interview Wednesday. Besides favorable weather, subsidies for fertilizers had also helped boost the harvest due to end in March. “Our goal is to reach 800,000 tons in 2018,” Kone said.

Cotton and gold account for about 80 percent of the West African nation’s export earnings, according to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF expects economic growth to decelerate to 5.3 percent this year from 6 percent in 2015, driven by slower expansion in agricultural output. This would still be above the historical average of about 4.5 percent.

The CMDT employs almost 5,000 full-time and seasonal workers, while the cotton industry provides an income to four million people, out of a total population of 15 million, Kone said in an interview in the capital, Bamako. The organization runs 17 deseeding factories and plans to increase this to 22, said Kone, who started as CEO in December.

Spinning Mills

Mali wants to step up local processing of cottonseed, which is currently at about 2 percent, Kone said. In July, the company signed a $300 million agreement with China-Africa Cotton Development Ltd. to build two spinning mills with capacity to produce 30,000 metric tons each by 2018, he said.

“The plan is also to increase our sales of cotton fiber at the international level, mainly to China and North Africa,” Kone said. Hennes & Mauritz AB, Europe’s second-largest clothing retailer, sources from three factories in Ethiopia, and Mali wants to attract similar brands, he said.

CMDT will by the end of this month sign an agreement with Office du Niger, a Malian state-run company that runs an irrigation program in the southwest of the country, to water 100,000 hectares planted with cotton within three years, Kone said.

“It can be a real asset for national production as irrigated cotton output is of better quality and productivity, with an expected 2 to 3 tons per hectare,” he said.

Neighboring Burkina Faso is Africa’s largest producer of cotton.