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.