Cotton Farming: Dr. Hussaini Doko Ibrahim is the director-general and chief executive officer of Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC). In this interview, he spoke on the Federal Government’s efforts to bring back the glory of textile industry in Nigeria.
What are the major mandates of your Council?
The major mandates of the Council are to promote the development and optimal utilisation of locally available raw materials by the manufacturing sector of the economy. The Council is also to ensure the development of process equipment or adaptation of existing ones for use by the sector.
You seem to have an uncommon passion for the cotton, textiles and garments sector of the economy.
I studied Textiles Engineering up to PhD level. When I was growing up, the sector was one of the major industrial sectors the country had serious pride in. Its influence pervaded the whole of Africa and beyond, both in terms of employment generation and contribution to national GDP.
I am always baffled by the travails of this sector and I believe that through multidisciplinary approach, the problems can be resolved.
As a result, I am always deeply concerned and ready to correct any problem of the sector that is within the mandates of the Council.
Our textile industry used to be robust one in the olden days, where many households usually depended on for their livelihood. It is on record that the northern Nigeria textile industry experienced an unprecedented growth in the history of Africa. By 1911, Kano was producing more than two million rolls of cloth per year.
The textile manufacturers were distributed all over the territory and export of local textiles to West African countries became intensified. During the 19th Century, the Kano textile industry reached extraordinary production levels.
Kano’s popularity as a market was due to a series of commercial incentives and greater regulation of market transaction. Likewise in southern Nigeria, the British Cotton Growers Association was operating three large ginneries at Ibadan, Lafenwa near Abeokuta and Lokoja.
The Nigerian textile industry spread considerably, and by 1987, the industry had grown to be the third largest in Africa, attracting investment from China and India, with over 170 urban textile mills and about 600,000 skilled and unskilled labour earning their living through it.
The sector, in the 1980s, made annual turnover of $8.95 billion and generated 25per cent of the manufacturing Gross Domestic Product. It accounted for not less than 10per cent of the corporate income taxes.
With about 1.3 million cotton farmers in the country’s cotton production belt and a dependency ratio of one farmer to eight dependants, an estimated 17.2 million people derived their livelihood from the sector.
What went wrong; and how is the government trying to put things in order for the sector?
From the 1990s, the fortune of the textile industry dipped and the number of textile mills dropped considerably. The industry that was producing at over 63per cent capacity utilisation dropped to a very low capacity utilisation ebb.
The textile mills in operation dropped to 25 with about 24,000 workers and projected dependant level of less than 250,000 people.
But in direct response to your question, the Federal Government, in realisation of the sector’s importance in job creation, proposed a N70billion lifeline that was eventually raised to N100 billion for the sector.
The textile industrial revival scheme was also based on the belief that the cotton, textile and garment industry stands out as a potential growth area of the economy that could propel the country towards achieving vision 20:2020 and the Millennium Development Goals.
Despite the efforts of the government, although many ginneries and textile mills were reactivated, cotton farmers did not benefit to any significant extent.
Today, many of the ginneries that benefitted are handicapped in repaying the facilities, principally because of low cotton production levels and other challenges.
As a result, there has not been any significant improvement as analysts put the growth rate in the sector at less than 1per cent in the last two years, with little or no significant impact on the nation’s GDP or noticeable boost in the sector’s employment ratio.
Presently in Nigeria, cotton lint is the most important single apparel fibre. Although other raw materials, such as kenaf, bamboo, dissolving pulp from hardwoods exist, cotton is the basic raw material in the Nigerian textile industry.
Thus, the domestic availability of cotton is the essential factor for the establishment of the industry in the country.
But despite the importance of cotton to textile industry revival, its production locally has not been quite impressive.
The peak period of cotton production in Nigeria was as far back as 1976/77 when about 453,126 bales (183.43kg/bale) were produced. Thereafter, production started to decline due to price flunctuation, pest infestation and other related problems.
By 1983/84, only 69,000 bales was produced, while the demand was about 531,000 bales, which might have been satisfied through importation.
Production in Nigeria is mainly from three cotton zones, namely, the northern zone (60%), eastern zone (30%) and southwest zone (10%) respectively.
Production is dominated by small scale farmers; with farm sizes ranging from 3-5 ha all under rain fed ecologies. Seed cotton yield range from 0.6 – 1.5 tons per ha, and about 98per cent of the cotton grown locally belongs to Gossypium hirsutum species with G barbadense, making the balance of 2per cent.
Other causes of poor crop yield in Nigeria have been attributed to late planting, adverse weather condition, finance and high cost of production.
As a raw material research organisation, what are you doing to improve the growth of cotton in the country?
While cotton production is practised as small scale activities in Nigeria, cotton production in most parts of the world is regarded as a high yielding and investment activity.
While some of the problems of cotton development in Nigeria require radical approach through direct intervention by the government, a number of them are being solved through multi-institutional and multidisciplinary approach.
For instance, the Council had been collaborating with relevant research institutes to provide the necessary impetus for the rejuvenation and reinvigoration of the sector. One approach the Council adopted was to co-fund the development and official release of three three improved long staple cotton varieties in collaboration with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR/ABU), Zaria.
The primary objective of the collaboration was to develop improved varieties of cotton that would be acceptable to the farmers. This effort has led to the release of Samcot 11, 12 and 13 varieties that produce better quality textile products.
The Council has been supplying farmers with these varieties so as to increase production and expand the hectarage under cultivation.
In 2015, the Council presented 5.82 tonnes of improved cotton seeds (SAMCOT 8’ 9’ 10’ 11’ 12 & 13’) to all cotton farmers under the umbrella of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN). Similarly, about 4.3 tonnes of the same varieties of cotton were also distributed to the cotton farmers in June 2016. Also, in June 2017, about 4.0 tonnes of the same cotton seeds were distributed to the cotton farmers for 2017 planting season across the country.
To ensure adherence to best practice principles, the Council embarked on capacity building training for cotton farmers on the best agronomics practices for cotton production in the various cotton growing zones in Nigeria.
In 2015, about 292 cotton farmers and ADP staff were trained across the four geo-political zones where cotton is grown. Also, in September 2017, over 400 cotton farmers were trained by experts from the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria. The Council equally provided training manual for all the farmers that attended the training programmes.
An assessment of the production capacity of the cotton farmers in the four cotton growing zones carried out in 2016 showed that yield increased in 2016 as a result of the impacted knowledge. The spraying and picking of the seed cotton by farmers are now done by adopting best practices without allowing stain and trashes, resulting in very white lint.
In November 2016, the Council, in collaboration with Crown Natures, organised entrepreneurship training on industrial garment production for local and international markets. Over 200 participants were trained in garment production.
To further the development of this sector, the Council, in collaboration with the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), developed an automated rapier weaving machine for the commercial production of aso-oke fabrics.
The machine is made up of 112 units, comprising of about 397 components, most of which are made of mild steel and cast iron.
The weaving machine, when fully commercialised, will remove drudgery associated with local weaving methods, increase productivity and profitability of weavers.
The weaving loom is faster, more efficient and appropriate for large scale economic production.
The Council, in 2017, also looked at the possibility of using bamboo and kenaf for production of textile fibres.
It is our belief that one of the ways capacity utilisation can be boosted is to introduce bamboo as an alternative or complimentary raw material for textiles production locally as bamboo fibre consists of 99.51per cent cellulose, 0.25per cent ash and 0.24per cent wax.
Likewise, in order to have a holistic data on all the possible raw materials for textiles production in the country, the Council constituted a committee of experts to study the production of dissolving pulp from indigenous hardwoods. Dissolving pulp has a high cellulose content (90%).