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French boost to cotton sector

[Burkina Faso] Cotton farmers in Burkina Faso see their income dwindling even if their production increases. [Date picture taken: 08/05/2006]
The floods have washed fields like these of their crops in and around Gorom-Gorom (Brahima Ouedraogo/IRIN)

France has stepped in to help boost Burkina Faso’s beleaguered cotton sector in the face of low world prices for the commodity and growing malaise to produce it.

The French Development Agency has granted the National Union of Burkinabe Cotton Producers 7.2 billion CFA (US $13.4 million) to help build managerial capacity, train farmers and expand cotton production across the eastern and central areas of the country.

The text of the grant agreement said it is meant to help diversify the agriculture sector to boost cereal production, improve transportation infrastructure and warehouses, as well as support sensitisation campaigns on HIV/AIDS. It was signed in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, on Friday.

Cotton is Burkina Faso’s main export, according to the World Bank. Three million of the nation’s 12 million people depend on cotton production for income while another three million live on collateral activities around the commodity. This year, cotton reached a landmark production of 713,000 tonnes in Burkina Faso, compared with 600,000 tonnes last year and 100,000 tonnes in 1996, according to the government.

Despite increased production, thousands of Burkinabe and other West African farmers have given up cotton farming because of falling world prices. This is especially true in Benin and Mali.

Farmers in Burkina Faso earned 165 CFA (US $0.32) per kg of cotton this year compared with 210 CFA (US $0.40) per kg two years ago.

Farmers blame developed countries for their losses. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of cotton. Last year, the 25,000 US cotton producers received more than US $4.5 billion in subsidies, according to Oxfam. Burkinabe farmers complain that the subsidies lead to overproduction, flooding the international market with cotton and driving down prices.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) in September launched a probe into whether the United States has dismantled the cotton subsidies programme. The Geneva-based WTO in 2004 had ruled that part of the programme broke global trade rules and it demanded extensive changes.

The United States says it has complied with the WTO obligations.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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