Pakistan was used to produce surplus cotton every year for decades. But in recent period, the cotton production started to decline. Now Pakistan spends precious foreign reserves to import cotton for textile sector.
This journey from being an export country to an import country tells the story that how our ruling classes has neglected the agriculture sector. Pakistan which considered as one of the largest agriculture producing country has imported wheat and sugar this year to meet the demand.
Pakistan used to export 2 million to 2.5 million bales but now the country will import at least 4.5m bales to meet demand. This situation has happened because the farming sector has been overlooked for years by the policymakers.
A decline in cotton cultivation area during the last couple of years, denial of reasonable return to farmers, use of poor seeds and pesticides coupled with harsh weather and pest attacks has taken its toll on the cotton crop.
The rate of return on investment for cotton is marginally lower. In Punjab and Sindh, sugarcane has a price comparative advantage of Rs 28 and Rs 32 per kg respectively over cotton. In this scenario, it is increasingly difficult to induce the farmers into increasing the acreage under cotton production.
Cotton production fell by 20.26 per cent to 8.303 million bales till Jan 15 this season against 10.456m bales in the same period last year, the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) said on Saturday.
In its fortnightly report, the PCGA noted that the production of cotton bales went down by 2.119m in the current season. The country is likely to miss the target of 9m bales.
Seed cotton (Phutti) equivalent to 1.9 million or exactly 1,907,518 bales have reached ginneries across Pakistan till Oct 1, 2020, showing a shortfall by 34.98 per cent compared to corresponding period of last year.
According to a report issued by Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA), 1.6 million or 1,604,628 bales have undergone the ginning process. Arrivals in Punjab were recorded at 736,760 bales and 1.1 million or 1,170,758 bales in Sindh.
Total over 1.4 million or 1,476,168 bales have been sold out including 1,459,568 bales bought by textile millers and rest of 16,600 by exporters. Stock of cotton bales lying unsold was calculated at 431,350 bales.
Total 466 ginning factories were operational in the country at this time including 196 in Sindh and 270 in Punjab.
Cotton crop sowing in the country during current season (2020-21) decreased by 1.3 percent as compared the sowing of the corresponding period of last year.
Cotton, which is among the major cash crop of the country and main sources of industrial raw material of largest export sector of national economy was on downwards trajectory due to various issues, said cotton Commissioner in the Ministry of National food Security and Research Dr Khalid Abdullah.
He told the media that cotton crop had cultivated over 2.457 million hectares as against the set targets of 2.663 million hectares, which was less than 1.3 percent of targets fixed for this season.
He said that about 92 percent targets of cotton cultivation was achieved during current season, adding that crop was grown over 2.489 million hectares during same period of last year.
In Punjab, he said that area under cotton growing was decreased by 2.5 percent as crop had sown over 1.890 million hectares as compared the target of 2.03 million hectares.
However, he said that the cotton sowing in Sindh registered about 2.7 percent increase as it cultivated over 0.615 million hectares as against last year’s 0.599 million hectares.
The Commissioner said that declining trend in cotton growing area was mainly attributed to increase in covered area under competing crops including sugarcane, maize and rice.
Due to the low input cost and less investment in competing crops, besides decreasing pricing trends of cotton in international markets, the farmers preferred the cultivation of these crops and they shifted their land into other crops,” he remarked.
The second main reason in decreasing area under cotton crop was late harvesting of wheat, he said adding that cotton was largely growing in wheat production areas and late wheat harvesting resulted in decline in cotton growing area.
The third and main reason, he said was the absence of cotton support price announcement by the government in the country, which discouraged the cotton growers.
Due to declining trend in cotton prices in international markets, the farmers were expecting government intervention to protect their interests, he said adding that absence of support price mechanism also discouraged the local farmers to cultivate the crop and encouraged them to shift no other crop with better returns.
Dr Abdullah further informed that during current Kharif season, sugarcane sowing witnessed about 16 percent increase as compared the same period of last year.
Meanwhile, the sowing of other competing crops like maize and rice had also witnessed significant growth, he said adding that country was already surplus in production of these crops.
Another concerning matter is the low productivity and inferior quality of the cotton seed. As of the current situation, 750 seed companies are operating within Pakistan as opposed to a total of 100 companies that operate in India.
This makes seed supply dicey and this inconsistency trickles down to individual batches. The output is non-uniform and seeds with a low germination rate are less resilient against diseases like bollworm and whitefly.
Unavailability of quality seeds and old gene technology are such recurring issues that impair the seed’s ability to survive changes in the weather. The world has shifted to genetically modified seeds and improved their cotton yield but Pakistan still has the poor quality seed. It is imperative to launch GMO transformation (against pink bollworm, whitefly, CLCV and other diseases) which is available with the private sector.
According to the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Depart¬ment (FSC&RD), 44,766 tonnes of cottonseed were tested, out of which 68% was approved for cultivation while the rest was rejected.
The private sector has a prominent share of 30,481 tonnes (99%) of certified and approved seed while the public sector contributed up to 16.27 tonnes in this season. The majority of the farmers in Punjab cultivated four approved varieties IUB-13, NIAB-878, BS-15, and FH-142 covering almost 75% area while the remaining area is occupied by unapproved varieties. Cotton control ordinance or other regulatory measures should be stringently enforced to deter such unapproved varieties cultivation.
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