Zambia Cotton Farmers Riot as Local Lint Prices Are Halved

Cotton farmers in Zambia rioted Sunday and set ablaze a truckload of cotton in lint form, after the farm-gate prices of the commodity plunged by more than 50%, the Zambian police said Monday.

The rioting dealt a blow to efforts by Zambia–Africa’s largest copper producer–to promote the cotton crop as it seeks to diversify its copper-reliant economy.

Fears over the ongoing euro-zone crisis and slowing growth in China, one of Zambia’s largest trade partners, have weighed down commodity prices in the African country.

Unlike the citizens’ unrest in northern Africa last year over rising commodity prices, which served as one catalyst for the Arab spring revolts, this time it was farmers in sub-Saharan Africa venting their anger at seeing their income slashed by a falling commodity price.

Farmers in Petauke district, in Zambia’s main cotton-producing Eastern province, intercepted a truck belonging to a private marketer before setting it ablaze. The truck was loaded with more than a dozen metric tons of lint, which had just been bought from smallholder farmers, deputy police spokeswoman Esther Mwaata Katonga said.

“We have arrested one person in connection with the incident,” Ms. Katonga said. The farmers also threw rocks at a local police post, where the driver of the truck tried to seek refuge, she said.

More cotton farmers have threatened to burn lint as the standoff persists, industry officials said.

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