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By Jimoh Babatunde, with agency reports
The Federal Government and West African Cotton Company (WACOT) during the week in Abuja signed an MoU on cotton production with a promise by the government to restore the past glory of the commodity.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, disclosed at the ceremony that the turnover of cotton in 1980s was in excess of 8.9 billion dollars.

Adesina said that the amount represented more than 25 per cent of the nation's manufacturing contribution to the GDP, adding that the current turnover had dwindled to mere 300 million dollars.

He noted that employment generation from the textile industry fell from 700,000 in 1980s when the industry was flourished with over 175 mills in operation to only 25,000 persons currently.

'Employment generation in northern Nigeria underwent a precipitous fall due in part to the collapse of the cotton and textile industry; it has also led to the attendant social unrest, economic strain and increasing rate of poverty.

Adesina said the industries contribution to the value addition had dropped significantly from 25 per cent in 1980 to five per cent currently and out of 51 ginneries then in operation only 10 were currently functional at low capacity.

He said that the partnership with WACOT was necessitated by the urgent need to restore the past glory of the cotton industry in Nigeria.

The minister said that under the agreement, the overall plan was to raise productivity from 150kg to 450 Kg  of lint by 2015 and double production from 120,000 tonnes of seed cotton to 760,000 tonnes in 2015.

'A major component of the plan is to multiply and distribute quality seed and raise quality of local lint through the use of appropriate packaging and cotton grading.

Adesina further said that under the agreement, WACOT had proposed a four-year seed multiplication plan to cover Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, Gombe, and Borno States.

He said that efforts were ongoing to expand hectarage from 16 hectares currently to 200,000 hectares by the end of 2012  and 250,000 hectares by 2015.

Adesina said that 105,307  cotton farmers across the 11 targeted states would benefit from the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme covering seeds and fertilisers.

He said the successful implementation of the MoU would benefit the entire economy in the areas of employment generation and tax accruals to the three tiers of government.

The minister said to make the textile industry more viable, government was taking measures towards eliminating illegal textile importers.

Also speaking, Mr Tembe Ravi, the Chief Executive officer of  WACOT said the initiative came at the appropriate time as cotton production in the country had declined from 300,000 tonnes to 65,000 tonnes in the 2010/2011 season.

He stressed the need to make cotton business more attractive to farmers  under the Agricultural Transformation Action Plan (ATAP).

Ravi said that WACOT focus would be on enhancing yield per hectare, ensuring remunerative price for farmers and improving the quality of the produce as well as processing and packaging.

He also stressed the need to address the infrastructural challenges bedevilling the country in order to regain its lost glory.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Nigeria lost its prime position as a major cotton exporter in 1961 to  countries like Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso and became a net importer.