SEKONKAHA, Ivory Coast Feb 12 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast expects to produce around 500,000 tonnes of unginned cotton in the upcoming 2015/16 season as attractive prices lure farmers back to the sector, the head of its association of ginners said on Thursday.
Ivory Coast, the world biggest cocoa producer, was also one of Africa’s major cotton exporters with annual output of about 400,000 tonnes before a 2002-2003 civil war split the country in two and halved production.
Output has been rising steadily over the past five years however. Ivory Coast produced 405,000 tonnes of cotton in the 2013/14 season and is on track for around 450,000 tonnes this season.
“If the enthusiasm is maintained, our cotton production will be around 500,000 tonnes next season. We expect to be among the leaders in Africa in the two next seasons,” said Christophe N‘Dri, the executive secretary of ginners association.
Cotton production is rising across West Africa as governments set high prices to draw farmers back to a regional sector that once grew 15 percent of the world’s cotton but was decimated by a market crash in the early 2000s.
Ivory Coast is now the region’s third biggest producer behind neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali.
In Sekonkaha, a village in the heart of the country’s northern cotton growing region, farmers are collecting the last of the season’s cotton before starting to plant for the new harvest later this month.
“Everyone is back. For the past two years lots of people have started growing cotton again. It’s well paid and there are no problems,” said farmer Meyeregue Soro.
Growers in Sekonkaha said that efforts to rejuvenate the sector had been so successful that even the local youth were leaving nearby gold mines and returning to farming.
“This year I planted 10 hectares. Next season I’ll do 15. Cotton is doing well here,” said Yacouba Soro, smiling and pushing a wheelbarrow filled of cotton. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Joe Bavier)