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Abstract

Cotton is one unquestioned success of Zambia’s turn towards a market economy. After liberalization in late 1994, production rose from 20,000 mt to over 100,000 mt in the 1998 harvest year. After collapsing to less than 50,000 mt in 2000, it has risen steadily, nearing 200,000 mt in 2005. Over 2002-2005, exports of cotton lint were first among all agricultural exports in value, 30% higher than any other agricultural export (Export Board of Zambia 2006). The closest competitor to cotton during this time –raw cane sugar –is primarily produced on large operations, while cotton is almost entirely a smallholder crop. Its potential role in poverty alleviation and food security is, thus, very large. The success of this sector has been achieved despite persistent declines in international cotton prices since 1995, serious problems of credit default during the late 1990s, the departure in 1999 of the sector’s biggest company, Lonrho, and a very recent crisis brought on by the appreciation of the Zambian Kwacha during 2006.

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