The cotton sector is a major source of employment and income in Tanzania employing about 500,000 rural households. Production is primarily by smallholder farmers owning between 0.5 to 10 acres (Average 1.5 acres) prevailed by handwork based and rain fed.
The total land under cotton cultivation in Tanzania is estimated between 400,000 to 500,000 ha characterized by high fluctuations in production; 350’000 tons and more in good years to hardly 100’000 tons of seed cotton in bad weather years.
The cotton growing area is divided into west and east as Western Cotton Growing Area (WCGA) and Eastern Cotton Growing Area (ECGA) respectively.
The WCGA encompass regions including Mwanza, Shinyanga, Singida, Mara, Kagera and Tabora producing 95% while ECGA include Morogoro, Manyara, Tanga and Kilimanjaro with a low production of 5% of the total cotton produced.
Cotton production in Tanzania is mainly conventional, largely for export with a total earning of $90-100 million TSh p.a. where about 80 % is exported mostly to Asia as lint. In the beginning, the business was government regulated through the marketing board which was the sole exporter.
However, the economic reforms that took place in 1990s liberalized the market for cotton thus engaging new traders and encouraged competition which has acted as a catalyst to increased production and improved quality thus building a more competitive market system