Uganda now imports cotton

Workers at Southern Range Textiles Limited making clothes at the factory in Kampala last week. Photo by Stephen Otage

Kampala- Southern Range Textiles Limited, the company which bought Nyanza Textile Industries Limited (NYTIL), has said it has resorted to importing cotton from Tanzania because Uganda no longer produces the quanities it requires.

Addressing journalists during the installation of new machines at the factory last week, Mr William Okello, the logistics manager, said the national cotton production which originally stood at 100,000 bales per annum, has now dropped to 80,000 bales and yet the demand for cotton has short up to 150,000 bales per year.

“Most of the areas which grew cotton in the east, north and south western Uganda, are now growing SimSim, sun flower, cassava and rice and this has reduced cotton production,” he said now they only have Kasese and Tanzania as sources of cotton.

Before the liberalisation of Uganda’s economy in the 1990s, coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco were Uganda’s major cash crops for export, which contributed the bulk of Uganda’s foreign exchange earnings. Government parastatals such as Coffee Marketing Board, Lint Marketing Board, Uganda Tea Corporation and British American Tobacco that have since been liquidated were responsible for the production and marketing of the crops.

Mr Okello told journalists that the Cotton Development Authority needs to start encouraging farmers to resume growing the crop because many factors have come into play to deter farmers from growing the crop.

“It is labour intensive, costs of inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers are too expensive and yet the equipment we are commissioning today is meant to meet the national demand for fabrics,” he said.

Second hand clothes banned
During the East African Community Heads of States meeting in Arusha Tanzania in March, the EAC governments proposed a ban on importation of second hand clothing which according to Mr Okello include garments like underwear, and other garments which the factory has developed capacity to manufacture but is not being protected by cheap fabrics coming from South East Asia.

He cited the Ministry of Defence, Uganda Prisons and Uganda Police as some of the government institutions already using their materials.


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