The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe

The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Limited is Southern Africa’s leading cotton buying, processing and marketing organisation.

Working with many farmers in Zimbabwe, Cottco provides comprehensive agronomic and financial support at every stage of the cotton production process from planting, nurturing and harvesting the crop to processing and marketing cotton lint and cotton seed.

Cottco is renowned for consistently supplying international markets with quality lint for more than thirty years.

Cottco, as The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Limited has become popularly known, is the successor to the Cotton Marketing Board (CMB) formed in 1969. It was privatized in 1994 and listed on the Zimbabwe Stock exchange (ZSE) on 1 December 1997.

Cottco now operates as a cotton procuring, processing, and marketing company.

As an agro processing company Cottco’s main line of business is the inputs credit scheme, purchase of seed cotton from farmers and the sale of the lint after processing. The bulk of its activities are the ginning and marketing of the crop. Cottco has a total of 25 outlets in Zimbabwe’s major cotton producing areas. Of the 25, five are ginneries with a combined capacity of 150 000 tonnes of seed cotton, located in Chiredzi (ginning capacity of 25,000 tonnes), Chinhoyi (ginning capacity of 40,000 tonnes), Gokwe (ginning capacity of 40,000 tonnes), Kadoma (ginning capacity of 20,000 tonnes) and Muzarabani (ginning capacity of 25,000 tonnes). These ginneries are of a high technical standard comparable with the most modern in the world.

An ISO 9001 : 2008 certified organisation

Cottco’s main activities

The ginning process separates the fibre, or lint from the seed. Most of Cottco’s ginneries are saw gins which operate using circular saws rotating between steel ribs. The company also has a roller ginning plant in Bindura, which enhances the return on long staple cotton because of its more gentle method of separating fibre from seed. Long staple cotton fetches a higher price on the world market than medium staple varieties.

As mechanical processes, by their very nature can cause damage to the cotton fibres, it is essential that gins are properly maintained and adjusted to keep fibre damage to a minimum. Properly trained and qualified ginnery staff is the key element of this process and Cottco personnel, constantly service the equipment. An important measure of processing efficiently is the “lint outturn”. This is the proportion by weight of marketable cotton lint produced from seed cotton after ginning.

A good outturn for the cotton varieties grown in Zimbabwe is around 41%. The bulk of the remainder is the cotton seed which is sold to the oil expressing industry for manufacture of vegetables oil, soaps and fats. Cotton varieties in the region have a lower lint outturn of around 35%. This illustrates the strength of Zimbabwe’s cotton research which is jointly run by the Cotton Research Institute in Kadoma and Quton Seed Company – a perfect Government and Private Sector partnership.

This scheme was developed in 1992. It was specifically targeted at smallholder farmers located in communal areas.

Cottco believed that the commitment of its own funds on an annual basis to provide seasonal finance to smallholder farmers, none of whom could access funding through normal commercial channels, would give cotton production the boost the company wanted.

Under the scheme, Cottco’s technical field staff assist farmers in drawing up their requirements for support in advance of the season.

Disbursements, either in the form of cash or inputs such as planting seed, chemicals or fertiliser or a combination of cash and inputs, are made in three tranches and total no more than 60 percent of a farmer’s total estimated production costs.

The first tranche helps with land preparation and planting, the second pest control and weeding, and the third with harvesting costs.

All scheme members commit themselves, thus positioning the lint product to compete with top-end Californian and Australian styles. This has added value to the product and which can be pre-sold on forward contract enabling the company to compete favourably on the international market.


Products and Services

Cottco, manages the cotton supply chain by providing a critical link between growers and spinners. Cottco works with farmers to improve the quality of their crop by providing agronomic and extension services and inputs.

At the processing stage, Cottco carefully and skillfully handles farmers’ cotton to produce quality planting seed, lint and cottonseed. Its specialised grading, classing and warehousing facilities ensure that its main product, lint, consistently fetches a premium on world markets.

Cottco is involved in every stage of the cotton production and sales process including:

Planting takes place approximately in October and November of each year.

Estimation of the size of the new crop begins at about the same time and is conducted by Cottco field staff. It is also carried out by the National Cotton Council , of which Cottco is a member. Farmers are provided with quality inputs at subsidised rates, through Cottco’s Inputs Credit Scheme, to ensure they produce a good crop.

The progress of the crop is monitored by Cottco field staff who provide ready agronomic advice to farmers.

Harvesting takes place from April/May (March in the Lowveld) and is mostly done by hand. To reduce synthetic fiber contamination, Cottco provides farmers with unwoven polyethlene (as opposed to synthetic, woven) plastic bags for picking.

As transport costs can inhibit the movement of cotton, particularly in the case of small scale and communal farmers, Cottco has collection and processing facilities located in all the major cotton growing areas of Zimbabwe.

Cotton is delivered in special Hessian packs, provided by Cottco at a small fee, to guard against synthetic fiber contamination.

Farmers deliver cotton that is sorted according to fault factors such as trash, stain and immaturity. Cottco buys cotton after grading it using a unique, sophisticated system through which every pack delivered is assessed for grade, colour and staple. The National Cotton Council sets grading standards at the beginning of each season, which are used to determine the value of cotton.

Qualified graders and classifiers, who have undergone a three-year training programme run by Cottco, carry out grading. Farmers who disagree with the grade of their cotton are free to apply for arbitration through the National Cotton Council.

After grading, every pack of cotton is decanted onto a mixing floor where the quality of cotton is checked for consistency of grade and contamination. It is thoroughly blended with other like cotton before ginning.

The ginning process separates the fiber from the seed in cotton to produce lint and cotton seed. Ginneries are overhauled each year and commissioned after inspection by a team of experts and trial ginning runs that determine whether machine settings have been optimised.

Every lint bale produced is automatically sampled. Initial sampling is carried out at Cottco ginneries while final classing is conducted at Cottco’s classing rooms in Harare to ensure the efficient allocation of lint to contracts.

Cottco has invested heavily in its laboratory in Harare, which is equipped with Spectrum 2 HVI lines, 1 FCT unit, Shirley Maturity Tester, Pressley, Stelometer and Fibronaire machines. State of the art humidifiers control humidity and temperature. To ensure that its testing results are within acceptable parameters Cottco’s laboratory participates in the Bremen Cotton Exchange Rund Test and U.S.D.A. check tests. The company’s objective is to provide a product that meets customer requirements and expectations first time all the time.

Cottco exports more than 80 percent of its lint to markets in South Africa, Europe and the Far East. Lint is sold directly to the end user through agents around the world.

Cottonseed, the other main product derived from the ginning process, is sold to local expressers who use it to produce edible oil. Cottco exports small quantities of its cottonseed to South Africa.

Some of Cottco’s cottonseed is not immediately sold to expressers and is sent to its mechanical delinting plant in Kadoma where the remaining fuzz (short fibers which remain on the cottonseed after ginning) is processed to produce linters. Linters are sold to local paper manufacturers and the “bald” seed to domestic expressers.

Cottco Depots and Contact Details

Muzarabani

Accountant: G. Masora

Tel: +263-57-2462-3/2464

Email: gmasora@cottco.co.zw

Manager: M. Njanji

Email: mnjanji@cottco.co.zw

Kadoma

Accountant: N. Tendayi

Tel: +263-68-22115/6

Email: ntendayi@cottco.co.zw

Manager: S. Mahambire

Email: smahambire@cottco.co.zw

Gokwe

Accountant: F. Taruba

Tel: +263-59-2876

Email: ftaruba@cottco.co.zw

Manager: A. Jonasi

Email: ajonasi@cottco.co.zw

Chiredzi

Accountant: T. Kanyuchi

Tel: +263-31-4091/4022

Email: tkanyuchi@cottco.co.zw

Manager: M. Mugwebi

Email: mmugwebi@cottco.co.zw

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