How Monsanto Nearly Collapsed Burkina Faso Cotton Industry


Accra, Ghana, December 16, 2017//-Burkina Faso, Africa’s top cotton producer and exporter is at the verge of losing out in the production of the commodity on the world market, following the spread of pests on the West African country’s cotton farms.

This development, according to the  latest World Agricultural Production report has led to the decline of cotton production in the country.

The report released by the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) this week noted: “Burkina Faso’s cotton production for 2017/18 is estimated at 1.3 million 480-pound bales, down 0.12 million bales from last month and down 0.01 million bales from last year”.

The harvested area in that country is estimated at a record 0.85 million hectares (mha), up 0.095 mha from last month and up 0.15 mha from last year.

The estimated yield of 333 kilograms per hectare is the lowest since 1995 – down 19 percent from both last month and last year and down 19 percent from the 5-year average yield, the report revealed.

Beginning of the troubles

The report which used information from the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) global network of agricultural attachés and counselors, official statistics of foreign governments and other foreign source materials, and the analysis of economic data and satellite imagery, further disclosed: ” Burkina cotton farmers switched from planting Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton to conventional cotton, resulting in increased bollworm pest pressure, further reducing the estimated yield”.

Burkina Faso which borders Ghana to the north began to experience the nosedive of its cotton industry after planting GMO Bt cotton variety provided by Monsanto Corporation, U.S. agro-chemical company.

Data available to African Eye Report indicated that large scale planting of Bt cotton started in 2008, and by 2009, 128,000 hectares (ha) of Bt cotton had been planted in almost all parts of Burkina Faso.

Seven years later the Bt cotton is being phased out after showing a marked decline in fibre quality compared to conventional Burinabé cotton which is of high quality.

Series of demonstrations

In 2015,  there were series of street demonstrations in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou against Monsanto over the introduction of the GMO Bt cotton variety.

By 2016-17,  Burkina Faso, the only West African country to have ventured into biotech farming, was phasing out the genetically-modified (GMO) cotton on quality and disease grounds.

Burkina Faso, the world’s 10th largest cotton producer, with three to four million of its 19 million people dependent on the cotton, said it was giving up Monsanto’s GM Bt cotton because it had proved uneconomical.

Because cotton farmers could not sell their cotton well, low price of the commodity, and more expensive inputs supplied to them by Monsanto which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

So, the farmers were desperate. And some had to commit suicide because of poor yields of the crop.

Their traditional or conventional cotton fetched top prices because its high-quality fibre lent a luxurious sheen to clothing and bedsheets. However, pests , bollworms were threatening the crop. Currently, the bollworm pests are still causing troubles in the country.

Even when you dropped the bollworm larvae into a bucket of poison, farmers said, they kept swimming, according to Reuters reports.

“Truthfully, genetically modified cotton, it’s not good today. It’s not good tomorrow. When you produce genetically modified cotton in your farm, after two years, you cannot plant anything else on your land”.

Details later

By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, African Eye Report


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