Monday 2019-10-21

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COTTON BOARD LOOKING TO IMPORT MORE BT COTTON

By Qondile Ntiwane | 2019-08-14

THE Swaziland Cotton Board has urged farmers to continue planting Biotechnology (Bt) cotton, having forwarded an application to the Eswatini Environmental Authority (EEA) to import the commodity.

Last year, EEA granted two landmark approvals for importation of Bt cotton seed and environmental release of the crop, making the Kingdom of Eswatini the latest African country to adopt Bt cotton.

In accordance with Biosafety Act, the EEA granted approval to the Swaziland Cotton Board (SCB) to import 3 000 kilogrammes of GM cotton seed for commercial release. The Board will import the seed from JK Agri-Genetics Limited, an Indian-based seed company.

The authority stated that the approval was subject to export and transit permits, which should be sought by the applicant or supplier.

EEA Acting Executive Director Gcina Dladla confirmed that the EEA had received an application from the Cotton Board to import Bt cotton into the country.

He said anyone who wanted to object to this application could forward that objection to their offices. He added that once the submissions were forwarded to EEA, they then hand them over to the advisory committee, who then looked into them and decide whether to give permission to the applicant or not.

“We are currently awaiting the objections, last year we noted that they (objections) were around GMOs to minimise indigenous cotton or seeds. Again there is no indigenous seeds, whether GMO or not,” he said.

Meanwhile, in November 2016, EEA allowed Cotton Board to undertake confined field trials for the GM crop.

The cotton industry has been one of the leading industries driving Eswatini’s economy. However, production has been dwindling owing to insect attack, key among them the bollworm.

Swaziland Cotton Board Chief Executive Officer Daniel Khumalo added that more farmers realised the benefits of Bt cotton.

However, he said the setback was that Bt cotton seeds were expensive as opposed to the conventional one as it cost E450 per kilogramme. Adding, Khumalo said the ginnery based at Big Bend would be quite busy as the harvest this year had significantly improved following a contribution from Nisela Farm.

He added that the Cotton Board started empowering farmers on Bt cotton as far back as 1998.

“More farmers want to plant Bt cotton, however, the challenge is that its seeds are quite expensive as a result individual farmers cannot afford to buy it.

“For the 2018 planting season, Nisela Farm planted Bt cotton on 246 hectares at Nsoko.”

The farm is currently harvesting with Nisela Farm Project General Manager Bulk Crops Linda Msibi reporting that per hectare they harvested about 3 200 tonnes of cotton, whilst for conventional cotton per hectare the harvest on average is 800 tonnes.

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