It is a criminal offence for cotton farmers to soak their bales in water, place stones or pumpkins in the pursuit of increasing weight and those caught in this act will be charged with false packing and fined, an official has said.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), such practices would soil a farmer’s reputation and damage the relationship with cotton companies.

“As AMA, we ensure that standards are maintained. Cotton grading is important and starts with a farmer. Our mandate is to promote fairness and order in the agriculture sector. We are in constant engagement with cotton companies and farmers must be paid according to the grade of their cotton with ‘A’ grade fetching a higher price,” said AMA agricultural inspector Tapiwa Mutonda at a recent field day held at Arcadia Farm.

“We encourage early picking of cotton, the first four or five balls. Cotton is affected by water, the sun and dust. The first thing to be considered when grading cotton is its colour, which is affected by staying longer in the field.

“Dead leaves fall on the cotton and decrease the grade. Do not mix weak fibres with good cotton. When a farmer mixes different qualities of cotton, the lowest grade will be considered. Pests also affect cotton grade and we encourage farmers to ensure that they adequately spray their crop,” he said.

Mutonda said only 12 percent moisture content was acceptable and any percentage above that would cause the cotton to be rejected as it would not be processed at cotton ginneries.

He also told farmers that it was important to maintain a good relationship with cotton companies and to avoid picking cotton early in the morning as it would be affected by mist.

“We have received reports of farmers who pour water in their cotton bales to increase weight. This affects the quality of the cotton and farmers must desist from such a practice. Stop placing stones and pumpkins. If the grader misses the stones in the grading room you will be exposed at the ginnery. Nowadays each bale bears the farmers information to ensure that culprits are brought to book because it is a police case,” said Mutonda.

state media/Zwnews