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Mr Price commits R30 mil. more to small-scale farmers at historic Cotton SA indaba

Local cotton industry set to continue remarkable turnaround that has seen 800% growth in last 5 years

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Clothing retailer Mr Price Group moments ago announced that they will be spending an additional R30 million on the development and support of small-scale cotton farmers. The announcement was made in Gauteng at the historic first Cotton Industry Indaba, presented by industry giant Cotton South Africa.

The local cotton industry has managed to counter the economic trends in the last five years by achieving a 800% growth in cotton lint production. This was the result of an innovative intervention lead by Cotton SA that saw buy-in from most of the cotton industry in collaboration with clothing retailers and government to create the Sustainable Cotton Cluster (SCC).

Natasja Ambrosio (left), a director of the MRP Foundation and group head of sustainable value chain at the Mr Price Group and Mairi Watson MRPG pilot programme retailer. Photo: Food For Mzansi
Natasja Ambrosio (left), a director of the MRP Foundation and group head of sustainable value chain at the Mr Price Group and Mairi Watson MRPG pilot programme retailer. Photo: Food For Mzansi

In a pre-recorded message from the Brics Summit in Brazil the minister of trade and industry, Ebrahim Patel, said he was pleased with the commitment of major retailers, manufacturers, organised labour and government who recently signed the national sector master plan for the retail, clothing, textile, footwear and leather value-chain.

“The country’s major retailers in the sector have committed to increasing procurement of goods from the South African manufacturers over the next 10 years. They’ve also committed to increase the procurement of locally manufactured products and this will increase from 24% today to 65% by 2030.”

The master plan will strengthen the entire value chain and lead to the 120 000 additional jobs by 2030 in South Africa, said Patel.

Leading cotton farmer and vice-chairperson of the Cotton SA board Phineas Gumede listening attentively during the Cotton SA Industry Indaba. Photo: Food For Mzansi

In her address Natasja Ambrosio, the group head of sustainable value chain at the Mr Price Group and director of the MRP Foundation, also celebrated the breakthroughs of the SCC to achieve a revival of the industry in an environment where the national economy is under severe pressure. “Our dream is to see more of our South African manufactured products made from locally produced cotton,” she said. The retailer already supports more than 250 small-scale farmers to grow cotton.

More than 200 industry role players are currently gathered at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg for the indaba, under the theme “Can’t Stop Cotton”. Cotton is one of the world’s top agricultural crops, and constitutes about 74% of natural fibre and 42% of all fibre currently processed in Mzansi. Most of the nation’s cotton farmers are based in North West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Speaking to Food For Mzansi Cotton SA CEO Hennie Bruwer said today’s industry indaba is aimed at celebrating “this incredible new burst of life” in the cotton and textile industry as well as critically addressing and solving the challenges experienced by cotton producers.

Bruwer said, “It is all about the celebration of the successes of the industry over the last five years. It is to bring together all the thought leaders in order to discuss the successes and the way forward. Hopefully we can continue growing the industry and localisation which is the key driver for the success.”

Economist Dr Roelof Botha addressing delegates of the Cotton SA Industry Indaba in Boksburg, Gauteng. Photo: Food For Mzansi

The event features several experts ranging from leading economists, including Dr Roelof Botha, to large-scale clothing brands such as the Mr Price Group who are sharing insights on the current climate of the textile industry and the importance of insourcing locally produced cotton.

Bruwer explained that there are numerous challenges plaguing the textile industry, with the financing of cotton production at the forefront.

“The mechanisation that is required in terms of commercial activities is expensive, and financiers have to come to the party to assist. If we can overcome that then we can deal with the textile sector. We don’t have ample capacity here – we only have four cotton mills left in South Africa – and with the increase in demand for locally produced textiles and clothing, that is putting strain onto the existing capacity.”

Bruwer added that alleviating this strain can only come from capitalising the erection of more spinning mills in the country.

“We are hoping investment in new spinning mills will alleviate the existing bottleneck that we are experiencing, and hopefully that will happen in years to come or in the near future, otherwise we are exporting jobs. What currently happens is that we have to send fibre to countries like Mauritius and Zimbabwe from time to time where the yarn gets spun and then it’s sent all the way back to South Africa to be knitted.”

The historic first Cotton SA Industry Indaba is attended by more than 200 roleplayers, including speakers from around the globe. Photo: Food For Mzansi

In his pre-recorded message minister Patel said the sector master plan represents a bold vision of the entire retail and manufacturing value chain and all social partners were asked to bring something concrete to the plan. The country’s major retailers in the sector have committed to increasing procurement of goods from the South African manufacturers over the next 10 years. They’ve also committed to increase the procurement of locally manufactured products and this will increase from 24% today to 65% by 2030.

In return manufacturers and businesses cannot recruit this investment without capacity and technology managing the upgrade in skills to build and manufacturing ecosystem to advance transformation and inclusion, said Patel.

The “master plan” will strengthen the entire value chain and lead to the 120 000 additional jobs by 2030 in South Africa. Patel added that the plan is already bearing fruit with the first phase of implementation through a deal procurement of an additional 25 million units of clothing and footwear and textiles. This commitment will create 28 000 as government and the industry goes through each phase of the plan.

Other speakers include Africa Operations Manager at the BCI, Lisa Barrett, who will speak on sustainable cotton production, and Joseph Kempen of the Loskop Cotton Ginnery outside Marble Hall in Limpopo.

Staff Reporter
Staff Reporter
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