Cotton production continues its downward spiral in Burkina Faso three years after it phased out the use of genetically modified (GM) cotton. Burkina Faso, Africa’s largest cotton producer earlier, is now fourth, producing 436,000 tonne the 2018-19 cotton season, trailing behind Côte d’Ivoire (455,000 tonne), Mali (653,000 tonne) and Benin (675,000 tonne). Last April, the Inter-professional Cotton Association of Burkina (AICB), an industry body comprising farmers and other sector players, had set a production target of 800,000 tonne for the 2018-19 cotton season.

Cotton farmers also received $27.4 mn in incentives in the form of subsidies on insecticides, fertilizers and irrigation facilities, according to a blog on the website of the Cornell Alliance of Science, a Cornell University initiative that seeks to promote access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability and raising the quality of life globally. The 436,000 tonne of cotton produced represented a decline of 29 per cent from the 2017-18 figure of 613,000 tonne, which was down from the 2016-17 output of 682,940 tonne. The decline in production has been consistent over the last three years, much to the worry of industry players.

The figures were disclosed at a briefing organised by the AICB in the country capital Ouagadougou to mark the start of the 2019-20 cotton season. The decline in production has been attributed to a number of factors, including regional farmer boycotts over unfair treatment, insecurity resulting from terrorist attacks and bad weather, according to the blog.

But farmers also blame the situation on increased pest attacks following the government’s decision to phase out GM cotton and return to conventional seeds. When cotton processers complained fibre from GM varieties was shorter in length, a decision was taken in 2016 to completely phase out GMO varieties. Scientists are cautioning that the country’s cotton industry will struggle to recover unless GM varieties are re-introduced.