October 7, 2019 / 1:35 PM / 9 days ago

Mali says cotton output to reach 1 mln tonnes, eyes new varieties

GENEVA, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Major African cotton producer Mali expects to increase output to 1 million tonnes annually within two to three years as it mulls new cotton varieties to boost yields, its agriculture minister said in an interview on Monday.

Mali is targeting a record 2019/20 cotton crop of 800,000 tonnes this year which is expected to make it the top producer in Africa, edging out rival Burkina Faso.

“We are currently projecting 1 million tonnes in the next two to three years,” Agriculture Minister Moulaye Ahmed Boubacar said on the sidelines of a cotton conference at Geneva’s World Trade Organization (WTO). He said Mali had no plans to consider genetically modified cotton varieties, citing difficulties with the quality faced by neighbour Burkina Faso.

“We have options to increase our yields without resorting to genetically modified cotton,” he added. “We are currently Africa’s top producer and we intend to stay that way.”

Another member of the Malian delegation specified that research was underway on new varieties, without giving further details about them or when they would be introduced.

The so-called “Cotton 4” African producers - Mali, Chad, Benin and Burkina Faso - are meeting with other member states at the World Trade Organization in Geneva this week to discuss measures to promote trade.

One of the key topics they hope to address is the reduction or removal of billions of dollars of state subsidies which they say create an uneven playing field for exporters.

The United States and Brazil are the world’s top exporters of cotton, with C4 countries together ranking in fifth position with about 1 million tonnes in annual exports, a WTO document showed.

But proportionally cotton is a bigger contributor to African producers’ budgets and they are also taking steps to encourage more investment in creating African textiles, rather than just exporting raw cotton. (Reporting by Emma Farge Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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