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African Cotton Growers Say Industry Is on Verge of Collapse


African cotton producers are calling for urgent action to save the industry from collapse. An executive of the African Cotton Association, or ACA, issued the call for action at the opening Thursday of a three-day meeting of African industry professionals held in Ghana. Efam Dovi has more on the story from Ghana's capital, Accra.

The president of the African Cotton Association, Ibrahim Malloum, says despite efforts to make African cotton production more competitive in the international market, the industry remains hindered by several factors, including the subsidies governments in developed countries pay to their farmers.

"The problem of the cotton sector in Africa, first of all, is the problem of lower world price, since now, seven or eight years the price of the cotton is still low because of overproduction and this overproduction of the cotton is the consequence of the subsidies granted by developed countries, and particularly, United States of America and Europe to their cotton farmers," Malloum says.

While some African governments do offer subsidies to their cotton growers, they are small compared to those offered to cotton farmers in developed countries. Malloum says if nothing is done to reduce these subsidies, the entire African cotton industry will become extinct.

"The situation is (getting) worse and worse, and now is the time, if something urgent is not (done) in the following months, I think it will be a disaster and nobody can (predict) the consequences, economic, social and politic(al) of the collapse of the cotton industry in Africa," Malloum says.

In his remarks Thursday, ACA president Malloum said although several international conferences have been held to address the problems affecting the African cotton industry, little progress has been made.

"Since Cancun in 2003, Hong Kong in 2005 and the different meeting in Geneva and WTO, nothing serious has been made and they are trying to put us in the meeting, conference to loose time, now the situation is worse, something must be done," Malloum says.

The association was formed in 2002 to foster cotton development. Though Africa is a distant second to the United States in cotton exports, the economies of many African countries depend on the industry. It provides a living to more than 20 million people.

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