Uganda MapUganda is the source of the mighty Nile river. Agriculture is the mainstay of Uganda’s economy. About 90% of the country's population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for food and livelihood. Cotton was introduced in Uganda by the colonists in 1903 as a cash crop. It served the dual purposed of providing raw material for the industries in the West as well as introducing cash economy in Uganda. During this period cotton production received a boost because of the introduction of a poll tax by the colonial government, which was to be paid with cotton.

Cotton production in Uganda is entirely rain-fed. The soil is highly fertile and therefore no fertilizers are used. Pest management is reliant on predatory black ants which are highly effective against most of the cotton pests. Pesticides, if applied, do not exceed two sprays on average. The average cotton farmer has approximately 3.6 ha of land and cotton is grown in rotation with other food and cash crops. With application of appropriate technological packages, Uganda's has cotton production potential of about 1000,000 metric tonnes (MT) that are possible from a potential 1.0 m ha area of cotton.

In Uganda only the BPA variety of cotton is produced. Uganda is the only country in the world that grows one variety of cotton, the long-stapled Bukalasa Pedigree Albar (BPA). This focus on one type ensures uniformity and easier quality control measures in producing lint and yarn. Currently cotton is cultivated in about 100,000 hectares. Productivity levels have been amongst the lowest at 13 to 100 kg lint/ha in the world for about 50 years from 1945 onwards. Cotton production was 30,000 MT in 1945 which increased to 80,000 MT in 1975. Since then the production has been declining and presently stands at 20,000 MT.

Currently cotton is grown in about 100,000 hectares and productivity levels have stabilised at 120-340 kg over the past ten years. Currently 80% of the cotton is exported.

Organic cotton production started in Uganda in the 1994/95 season in Lira and Apac districts in Northern Uganda. Since then organic cotton production has increased and the main motivation of farmers to grow organic cotton is the higher price for the produce.

Organic fibres are exported and not processed locally. Researchers in Uganda have also been conducting preliminary experiments with Bt cotton.

In Uganda the manufacture of clothing and apparel is still very minimal and Uganda imports large quantities of fabrics and garments, including used clothing. The players in these groups, though numerous are small and operate informally as individual or family owned income generating activities. Farmers and tailors also tend to be heterogeneous in terms of skill, technology and location. Products are sold at virtually all stages of the value chain on both small and large scale. The cost, complexity of process and time involved in value transformation from one stage of the chain to the next is varied.

Processors in Uganda have traditionally used double roller ginneries, although they are comparatively suitable for short staple varieties and black seeded cotton, but these prove ineffective for the long staples and fuzzy seeds of Uganda’s cotton. The total annual ginning capacity in Uganda is estimated at 61,600,000 kg, which roughly translates into 40,000 tons of cottonseed and 21,500,000 kg (approx. 116,000 bales) of lint. Ginneries are required to sell 20% of all their seed to CDO for replanting, and the rest, totalling about 32,000 tons, is sold to oil mills for crushing. Ugandan cotton is reputed to be very contaminated and quality control at the primary level has broken down. Ginning overcapacity has led to a scramble for cotton and a large number of buyers purchase seed cotton regardless of quality, forcing others to do the same.

Research shows that less than 20% of the potential is exploited. This is due to the low level of industrialisation and weak intra-industry linkages both in Uganda and the region. Other reasons are the lack of knowledge of the full potential of cotton, over emphasis of support organs/institutions on lint and textile, and the high investment and marketing costs.

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