A new strategy seeking a platform for cotton development in the coming 15 years recommended the establishment of the Ethiopian Cotton Development Authority (ECDA), The Reporter has learnt.
At present, cotton development is under the Cotton Development Directorate of the Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute. Cotton development before it was subsumed within this institute in the Ministry of Industry had been under the then Ministry of Agriculture.
The new strategy, in the works for the past two years with technical and financial assistant from the UK Department for International Development (DfID), comes up with a new institutional framework.
The study listed pros and cons of allowing the cotton sector to be under the purview of the Ministry of Industry or the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
When it comes to MoI, the document identified that insufficient knowledge of seed cotton production, limited human resources to promote cotton production among farmers as well as limited coordination with the Ministry of Finance will be potential pitfalls if the sector were allowed to be under MoI.
Citing the case of India and the success of its cotton sector, the strategy finally proposed the establishment of a new authority that will directly be accountable to the Office of the Prime Minister.
During the official launching of the strategy on October 12, 2017, Meberhato Meles (PhD), state minister of industry, expressed misgivings over the proposed institutional framework.
“I believe the current institution has no problem when it comes to leading the sector,” Meberhato said.
“It is just a matter of different institutions who are involved in cotton development in need of coordination,” he said.
The strategy devised by SOFRECO, a French consultancy company, further clarifies that the MoI will have little power to enforce the decisions made by ECDA regarding the agriculture sector.
Local cotton producers argue otherwise.
“For me it is better to establish the new authority, but it should be answerable to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources,” said a cotton producer who attended the official launching ceremony.
“It will be difficult for the new authority to function under the PM Office with all the bureaucratic hassle,” he added.
The strategy, however, proposes that, “the implementation of the National Cotton Development Strategy (NCDS) should be led by a dedicated authority ideally placed directly under the Office of the Prime Minister. ECDA will bring together ministries involved in the implementation of the NCDS.
“In Ethiopia, both MoANR and MoI will play a crucial role in the implementation of the cotton development strategy. The role of MoFED will also be critical for price support/stabilization and support to investments,” according to the strategy.
The strategy, to be presented to the government for approval, has an ambitious plan to make Ethiopia among the top producers of cotton by 2032.
In this respect, the country is believed to have three million hectares of land suitable for cotton production. However, with this capacity, the country has managed to utilize only 135,000 hectares in 2011/12, which is considered a peak year.
By 2032, the strategic document notes, the amount of land allocated for cotton production is expected to reach one million hectares, producing 2.6 million tons of cotton a year.