Cotton production in Nigeria: The Ogun example
Sir: Sometimes you achieve a breakthrough for which the only adequate response is “Thank you, Lord.” The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for “Arewa Cotton” to establish a ginnery in Ogun State is one of such instance. Cotton and its production is central to the economy of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital and the cottage industry in the state with mainly women but also men producing Adire, the local tie and dye fabric, which they sell in the state’s markets and beyond to make a living.
Unfortunately, during the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration, the government banned the importation of cotton though with the right intention to increase employment, but the policy seems to have been unevenly implemented because while the dyers could no longer get cotton in the south, they could in the markets of Kano up north and this brought about great setbacks to the cottage industry in Abeokuta due to the troubles with customs officers when trying to move it into Ogun State.
The confiscation of cotton worth millions of naira, the stress of trying to reclaim their seized products, and other untold hardship they experienced for over four years, all combined to convince the dyers that they desperately needed a way to buy cotton fabric locally and this desire got answered when the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment mooted the idea of establishing a ginnery factory in the Southwest, Nigeria and the big question now is where should it be sited?
A cotton trade show was held in India in 2012, which was attended by all cotton-producing states in Nigeria and the event gave all cotton growers and producers the opportunity to meet with buyers with samples of cotton staple grown in their states. These samples were then put through rigorous tests to ascertain the strength of the cotton staple and its length, factors, which affect the range, as well as the quality of the fabric that could be produced with it. It was at this event that the political considerations that often stand in the way of merit-based selection processes in Nigeria was removed and Ogun State was declared “the best cotton producing state in Nigeria.”
Apparently, its long staple cotton, which is a by-product of the soil type and rainfall pattern is a rarity that Ogun cotton shares with Mali and Egypt who are among the best cotton producers in the world.
Femi Osipitan wrote from Idi-Aba Abeokuta, Ogun State.