(Readers of the Bulletin will be familiar with some of the problems which have been facing Tanzania’s cotton industry during recent years. A comprehensive paper on the subject, with particular reference to cotton processing, was presented to Britain’s Tropical Agriculture Association at a meeting at the Linnean Society of London on January 19th 1989. Extracts from the paper are given below – Editor)

From a high peak of 415,000 bales in 1972/73 Tanzania’s cotton production had declined to 196,000 bales by 1982. But exacerbating this decline in production has been the state of the processing (ginning) industry. The 23 roller ginneries and 2 saw ginneries originally had a potential capacity of 400,000 bales in a 26 week ginning season but in 1982 they struggled to achieve 120,000 bales. The difference between the two different types of ginnery is that roller ginneries are slower acting and more gentle with the cotton and are particularly well suited to long staple and hand picked cotton, whereas saw ginneries provide a much higher throughput but do not retain the lint quality. Furthermore, in order to gin 120,000 bales the ginneries had to work all through the year. The crop should be ginned in only 26 weeks so that the process is completed before the next rains and at the best time for marketing. The old age of the ginning machinery, much of it built in the 1940’s and 50’s but some dating back as far as the 1920’s, caused frequent breakdowns leading to a decline in production and increased marketing costs and maintenance requirements. Poor maintenance, the lack of spare parts and of fuel and lubricants plus the numerous changes that the industry has experienced compounded the problem.

To determine the nature of the problems and suggest possible measures to revitalise the industry the Government of Tanzania in 1982 commissioned the British Cotton Growers Association (BCGA) which was originally formed in 1902 but is now part of the Cargill Group of companies, to carry out, with World Bank assistance, a comprehensive study of the industry. At the same time the Government of the Netherlands instigated a US$ 20 million Emergency Rehabilitation Programme to sustain production and processing. BCGA were retained as consultants to this project also.

The emergency aid programme provided funds for ginning machinery and replacement parts, machine tools and materials for a central workshop, new vehicles and a team of specialists comprising eleven BCGA engineers to provide training and to assist with production maintenance and in rehabilitation of the ginneries.

The team have experienced a number of problems. These include delays in the co-operatives ordering and arranging delivery of spare parts, the chronic short age of fuel and lubricants for the diesel generators which supply power to the ginneries and difficulties the Cooperative Unions face in sending their vehicles to the Central Workshop in Mwanza because of the poor state of the roads. Also the inability of the Unions to recruit and retain staff for training due to poor pay and conditions and the remote location of the ginneries and the poor prospects for future advancement.

But the Emergency Rehabilitation Programme has made good progress. Some 600 roller gins have been overhauled and made operational out of a total of 817 and in the 1986/87 season the Unions were able to gin 300,000 bales and to improve productivity and quality.

The 1987/88 crop increased to 450,000 bales but the equivalent of 200,000 bales remained unginned at the end of the season and had to be carried over to the following season. A crop of some 500,000 bales is forecast for the 1988/89 season.

As existing ginning capacity, even after rehabilitation, will not be able to cope with present and future production, in 1987 the Government of the Netherlands commissioned BCGA to design and plan new ginneries (at Manawa, Balumba, Mwanhuzi and Buchosa) under a US$ 15 million project to be managed by BCGA. Two roller and two saw gins are planned. One of the four (Buchosa) will be financed by a loan from the European Investment Bank. Britain’s Overseas Development Administration (ODA) has asked BCGA to do a feasibility study for the rehabilitation of the Manonga Ginnery and Oilmill and an appraisal of the justification for a new ginnery at Nassa. Sweden funded a study in April 1988 to assess the condition of existing plant and equipment in the Eastern cotton growing area of Tanzania. The World Bank funded a study on cotton pricing and marketing in September 1988.

Much of the cotton seed from which valuable cotton seed oil and cake can be extracted is being destroyed each year because of inadequate milling capacity and to make s pace for the new crop of cotton in the limited storage facilities. Some 80,000 tons remained unprocessed in 1988 and Tanzania is forced to import large quantities of vegetable oil. BCGA is currently undertaking an appraisal of the edible oilseed processing capacity in Tanzania and hopes that this will result in donor aid for the Tanzanian oil milling industry.

Tanzania’s textile industry is also facing problems. It uses only some 60,000 bales of cotton at present although its capacity is 100,000 bales. The causes are similar to those faced by other parts of the cotton industry particularly shortages of power and fuel. The World Bank is financing a study aimed at rehabilitating the textile industry.
J. W. Turnbull
Mr. J. W. TURNBULL is Divisional Director at the British Cotton Growers Association Ltd. He was previously a consultant with Minster Agriculture Ltd.

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