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Cotton is among the most popular fibers worldwide. It comes from the seedpod of the cotton plant and makes a variety of fabric types. Though it was first cultivated in South Asia and South America, it is believed to have originated from Ethiopia. Cotton cultivation of Ethiopia cotton is said to have started way before the revolution and is one of the countries cash crops.
Ethiopia Cotton farming is practiced by both small-scale farmers who rely on rain-fed productions as well as large commercial farms in the southern rift valley. Due to the shortage of rain in the areas where they are planted commercially, irrigation method is used to support the plantations.
Volume of production
The textile industry in Ethiopia has proved to be self-sufficient as it produces about 50000 tons annually. Last year, the country produced about 60000 tons of grinned cotton for their internal consumption. Recently, the government lifted the ban against cotton export that had been set in 2013 and made a significant investment by establishing industrial zones as well as incentives to attract foreign investors. More to that, the government is also looking to change the seeds used to genetically modified ones that are more resistant to pests and diseases, this in return is expected to increase the yields to an estimate of $1 billion.
Varieties of cotton
There are four types of cotton grown in Ethiopia that is Selam-Omo, Bazen, Hiwot, and the Mid-Awash. Though the main categories are the Selam from the Gondar region in the Northwest of the country, and Mid-Awash from the Awash region in the East.
Growing and harvesting
Ethiopia has the upper hand when it comes to most farming activities due to its favorable climatic conditions as well as being endowed with soil that is suitable for organic farming. The government discourages the use of harmful pesticides and advocates the use of manure to improve the soil quality. Cotton requires warm climate to do well and for good yield, regions with an altitude of 1000m above sea levels which is where most of this cotton plantations are located, they include Omo, Awash, Wabi, and the Blue-Nile do lie within this ranges. Temperatures between 200c – 320c do suit the requirements for cotton cultivation. The best soil for this product is typical cotton soil due to its water retention capacity. The cotton farming cycle differs with the regions, for example, in Mid-Awash, the latest time for planting is mid-April while in the south, and the earliest planting time is around June.
It takes about six months for the cotton to attain maturity. On harvesting, unlike developed countries, the Ethiopian cotton is harvested by hand. As much as this may be slower, the quality remains untampered with mainly because machines would tend to pick everything on the farm from soil to the leaves and twigs. Hand-pickers only go for the mature cotton balls. They are kept in bales and away from water until they’re ready to be ginned.
The fiber is then separated from the seeds at the ginneries; the thin coating of wax that surrounds the fibers and protects them from wetness is removed. Due to the differences in the planting period and also use of irrigation, cotton is available throughout the year.
The factors put into consideration when it comes to determining the grade of the cotton is the length, basically, the longer the fiber, the higher the quality and on this note, Ethiopian cotton is of a high-quality. A considerable percentage of the cotton exported from Ethiopia is in its raw form. At the moment, cotton goes for $1.60/kg in the local market. Ethiopia exports its cotton to Africa, Europe, and Asia. Asia alone imports 67% of the total cotton produced in Ethiopia
Considering that Ethiopia only uses 3% of the entire land available that is suitable for cotton cultivation, is regarded as a water haven and the recent government moves to increase cotton production, Ethiopia is a magnet for cotton and textile investors all over the world. This prestigious country has not yet attained its full potential in the industry which only means one thing, that there is a lot more one should expect from the horn of Africa.
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