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BAMAKO: Mali confirmed on Wednesday its forecast for a strong rise in local cotton production for the 2012/2013 season despite unrest that included a March 22 military coup and a rebellion that has since gained control of the northern part of the country.

"The forecast is for 500,000 tonnes against 445,143 tonnes (for 2011/2012)," Ousmane Cisse, head of statistics for the CMDT cotton company told Reuters, adding that favourable rainfall plus steady local farmgate cotton prices would buoy output.

Mali's cotton output is based in the south of the country and production for each new season runs from May to October. Along with gold, it is one of the mainstays of the economy.

West Africa once represented about 15 percent of the world's cotton exports, analysts say, but was hit hard by a market crash in the early 2000s, which West African states blamed on subsidies in competing growers such as the United States.

The crash prompted many farmers, who saw little potential for profit, to switch to other crops. A rally in world cotton prices through 2010 and 2011 started to draw farmers back into the fields but prices are back down at two-year lows with world cotton stocks at record highs.

Copyright Reuters, 2012