10 May 2002

Cottoning on to a high-risk crop

COTTON is the key to profit at Mudapelo, a 150ha (370 acre) unit to the south of Seville, where the crop is germinated under plastic to give it a head start and ensure premium prices at harvest in October.

"It is a risky crop to grow, but lucrative if you get it right," says Dario Candau. "Lots can go wrong, with rain damage at the growing stage, attacks from fungus and insects, and strong competition from weeds and grasses. Daily irrigation is a must."

But, with processors getting generous subsidies from Brussels, prices of over k700/t (£430/t) are available for a crop that can yield over 6t/ha. That gives an output of around k4000/ha (£2460/ha). Total cost is put at k2000/ha (£1230/ha), leaving a net margin of around k2000/ha (£1230/ha).

The farm also produces around 3000t of sugar beet – just over its 2950t A and B quota – which is sold to two processors near Seville. A crop of peas is also slotted into the rotation. &#42

Rain damage threatens the cotton.