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Cotton Expert: Bulgaria Offers Good Conditions for Growing Cotton, Decent Livelihood to Farmers

In Bulgaria there are areas with favourable soil and climatic conditions for cotton cultivation – in the southern regions of Stara Zagora, Haskovo, Yambol, Sliven, Burgas and Plovdiv, and some areas in northern Bulgaria where some 60,000 ha of cotton can be cultivated.  In southern Bulgaria, about 30,000 ha very suitable for cotton cultivation, cotton breeder Prof. Ana Saldzhieva of the Institute of Field Crops in Chirpan, formerly known the Cotton Institute, told BTA in an interview.

Prof. Saldzhieva is engaged in genetics, breeding and seed production of cotton. She is the author and co-author of ten cotton varieties and has also been involved in the development of two cotton production technologies that are used in Bulgaria and in neighbouring countries. On November 10, 2016, she was included in the Golden Book of the Patent Office of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Patent Office told BTA.

Prof. Saldzhieva told BTA that cotton offers farmers a good livelihood and could provide good income for them and economic employment in rural areas. Cotton is a very good precursor to winter cereals. In recent years, this balance has been disturbed by a strong increase in the area of the more easily grown crops, such as wheat, barley, sunflower. Cotton can be grown on soils contaminated with heavy metals on which food crops cannot be grown.

In Europe, only two countries grow cotton on large areas – Spain and Greece.  Cotton fibre is scarce in the European Union (EU), which is why the EU subsidises cotton cultivation, said Prof. Saldzhieva. Only four countries – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria – have the conditions to grow cotton. Considering that of the current EU member states, only Greece and Spain produce cotton, Bulgaria could take a certain position in this sector.

“Since 2002, cotton production in this country has been in crisis due to the general crisis in agriculture, low purchase prices and the lack of timely incentives. Cotton in Bulgaria is included in the development programme and subsidised by EU funds. Bulgarian cotton growers have been receiving an EU cotton subsidy since 2016 as a supplement to the basic single area payment scheme,” explained Saldzhieva.

According to her, the restoration of domestic cotton production requires the renewal of the entire material and technical base – both for the production of raw (non-manufactured) cotton (through purchasing mainly new cotton-picking equipment) and for its primary processing.

Cotton is a major fibre crop and an important oilseed crop. The main product for which it is grown is fibre. The qualities of cotton fibre, such as hygroscopicity (ability to absorb moisture), softness and electroneutrality, make it in many cases indispensable to man-made fibres. Cotton is a strategic raw material whose demand is growing steadily worldwide, said the Professor, adding that cotton is growing rapidly, and its demand is growing rapidly.

This article was written within the framework of a partnership initiative between BTA and the Bulgarian Patent Office (BPO) which envisages the presentation of Bulgarians listed in the Golden Book of BPO and the activities of the BPO in a joint weekly column entitled “Created in Bulgaria”.