By Ibrahim Kasita
GOOD prices coupled with free extension services have boosted cotton growing in the mid and south-western regions.
According to analysts, this is good for the industry and would lead to increase in national cotton production and improve farmersâ€™ household income.
The western region comprises of Hoima, Masindi, Buliisa, Kibaale, Kiboga, Kyenjojo and Nakasongola. Others are Bushenyi, Kamwengye and Kasese districts.
The New Vision visited the cotton belts discovered that farmers were observing the best farming practices and spraying their gardens with synthetic pesticides to control pests and diseases.
Statistics obtained from the Cotton Development Organisation (CDO) field offices in the two regions indicated that 20,768 acres were under production.
â€œWe received the seeds from CDO in time and the germination rate was good,â€ explained Eleazer Bitumire, a 70-year-old farmer in Kirugu village, Kichwamba sub-county in Bushenyi.
â€œI have 20 acres and expect to harvest 20,000kg (about 55.7 cotton seed bales).
â€œI am always monitoring the garden for pests outbreak so that I spray before they destroyed the crop.
â€œThis will ensure a rich harvest,â€ Bitumire said.
Last season CDO increased cotton prices from sh600 per kilogramme to sh800 for the 2008/09 season.
It also provides free technical services and subsidised inputs to farmers.
Ugandaâ€™s cotton exports declined over the years from 476,000 bales in 1969 to 60,000 last year.
Cotton earnings also fell by 4% to $19.5m in 2007 from $20.4m in 2006.
However, this is bound to change because most of the gardens visited by the New Vision team showed that a good harvest was in offing.
The gardens, now in the flowering stage, had the balls and fruiting points of between 50 and 70 flower buds per plant station which experts said was a sign a good harvest ahead.
Michael Zadde, a farmer in Kapaapi village, Kamukwenda sub-county, in Buliisa, confirmed this.
He said most of the farmers were expecting to harvest over 1,000kg per acre, which he said would be better than last season.
He attributed this seasonâ€™s fortunes to CDOâ€™s timely intervention to encourage farmers to use synthetic pesticides. â€œPesticides have been brought nearer to us at a subsidised price.
We have been trained on how to look after the crop,â€ he said. He added that the farmers had intensified spraying to avoid attack by the destructive lygus and bollworms. â€œWe expect high yields, which will improve our household income,â€ Zadde said.
He said CDO field officers and site coordinators were on ground sensitising farmers on proper crop husbandry.
The farmers who were interviewed said the seeds distributed by CDO germinated well.
The intervention by CDO was partly due to the introduction of organic cotton growing in the traditional cotton-producing areas in the north and eastern regions. It exposed the crop to pests and disease was blamed by industry experts on the reduction in production last season.
Organic cotton farmers do not use synthetic pesticides.
Analysts say the farmers were also ill-prepared to adopt the practice.