Cotton output may fall short by 6 million bales

August 11, 2022

LAHORE: Pakistan might have to import up to six million bales of cotton as domestic output would likely fall short of target mainly due to inclement weather and high cost of inputs over the last...

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LAHORE: Pakistan might have to import up to six million bales of cotton as domestic output would likely fall short of target mainly due to inclement weather and high cost of inputs over the last several weeks.

Official cotton sowing data for 2022-23 season showed national level cultivated area at 2.01 million hectares, around 20 percent less than the target of 2.53 hectares. However, an increase of about 7.1 percent was seen over area planted last year.

According to first estimates issued by the Punjab government, the cultivated area of cotton stood at 1.48 million hectares, 19 percent of short of target and about 16 percent greater than the previous year. Whereas sowing area in Sindh was 0.517 million hectares, down 19.2 percent than the target and about 13 percent lower than the previous year.

Shortfall in cotton production means higher imports of the silver fiber to meet the demand of the domestic textile industry.

Cotton imports were forecast to rebound to over 5.5 million bales in 2022-23. It may touch the mark of six million bales in case production is not revived from the loss incurred due to drought as well as incessant rains. Cotton crop has been under extreme weather-related stress since its cultivation. First drought and above-normal heatwave continued to adversely affect sowing during April-June this year, especially in Sindh and South Punjab.

Then, from July 1-31, most of the cotton belt received above normal rain that also inflicted sporadic damage. Resultant deluge and inundation of cotton field ravaged growers too, as the abiotic stress gutted their efforts.

Intense monsoon rains in South Punjab, cotton belt of Sindh and Balochistan inflicted severe damage on the standing crop. This year, most cotton growers are unwilling to spend any more money on the under-stress crop as chances of reviving it have become slim. High humidity levels also brought on pest attacks on larger areas. Farmers were also perturbed by low cotton price, which discouraged further investments as well. Extremely high cost of inputs including fertilisers, electricity, and diesel had already broken the farmers’ backs. Commenting on the prospects of the cotton crop, spokesman of Kissan Board Pakistan said that cotton growers were devastated due to unfavorable weather, apathy of department concerned and high cost of inputs.

He said it was highly unlikely that the cotton production target would be met. Instead, he feared that cotton growers would face huge losses due to low or even no production on account of extreme weather events.

He strongly criticised provincial and federal government for not ensuring higher returns on cotton, terming it one of the main reasons behind low productivity in the ongoing season. Reviewing cotton crop 2022-23, Secretary Agriculture South Punjab, at a department meeting in Multan on Wednesday said, “Cotton crop is being minutely monitored in the province. We have appointed monitors in all the districts of cotton cultivation to review the activities of cotton”, and the monitors are visiting their respective areas regularly to share the status reports.

He was hopeful that better strategy and management would have a positive impact on crop production this season. “So far, 275 percent more production than the April sown crop is being achieved, if this trend continues, the production target will be achieved,” he said, noting that delayed application of agrochemicals on the cotton crop in the early days resulted in an increase in the number of friendly insects and keeping harmful insects below the economic threshold. He said that despite the natural calamities, better production was being obtained from the crop planted in April. Punjab Agriculture Minister Hussain Jahania Gardezi said that revival of cotton crop was the first priority of the department. Last year, he added, with better team work “we were able to revive the cotton crop”. This was why cotton has been cultivated on more area this year.

The provincial agriculture minister said that the future of cotton was linked to integrated pest management (IPM). Implementation of IPM not only increases the yield but also significantly reduces the cost for farmers. Gardezi said that the months of August, September were very crucial for better care of cotton.

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