Tuesday July 16, 2024

Cotton arrivals surge 80pc, but pest attack dims outlook

By Manuwar Hasan
September 19, 2023

LAHORE: Cotton arrivals rose by 80 percent in the first fortnight of September compared to the corresponding period last year, when floods ravaged the crop, but a pest attack in the main growing region could limit the overall crop size, industry officials said on Monday.

According to data released by the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) on Monday, the total cotton arrivals reached 3.933 million bales, with the latest fortnightly flow of 0.892 million bales, which is marginally down from the 0.925 million bales recorded in the previous 15-day period (August 15-August 31, 2023), showing a decline of 3.7 percent.

If this descending trend continues in the ensuing fortnights, there is a strong likelihood that the cotton production target of 12.77 million bales will remain a distant reality this year, despite bringing the targeted area under cultivation. Some experts have a highly pessimistic view of having approximately 6.5 to 7.5 million bales.

One of the main reasons behind the low projection of the cotton crop has been the pest onslaught reported in Southern Punjab. The infestation of whitefly and jassid, along with mealybug attack, has severely impacted the growth of the plant. The whitefly becomes so lethal for the cotton crop that it plays a pivotal role in spreading the cotton leaf curl virus. In such a dismal scenario in the month of September, there is a fear that the cotton crop size will be curtailed drastically against the previous optimistic view.

Farmers have also been demoralised and are not caring for standing plants due to the fluctuation and downward trend in cotton prices, and the lack of intervention by the government for stabilizing lint price despite making an announcement. Hence, growers are largely not interested in spending money on pesticides and fertilizers.

Whitefly has already devastated the cotton crop in Indian Punjab last year and in 2015. According to a report, after facing setbacks from whitefly attacks, most of the cotton farmers in the most affected areas in Indian Punjab had ploughed several cotton crops. Before that, in 2015, two-thirds of the cotton crop was destroyed by whitefly invasion in Indian Punjab.

Coming back to the fortnightly report, cotton arrivals in Punjab rose by 43.4 percent to 1.544 million bales as compared to 1.077 million bales clocked in during the same period last year, while in Sindh, it is up by 115 percent to 2.389 million bales.

So far, textile companies have bought 3.312 million bales and cotton exporters have bought 0.400 million bales.

It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan's textile sector exports registered a decline of six percent and remained at $1.58 billion during August 2023 compared to $1.48 billion recorded in the same period last year. Cotton being a strategic crop is a main raw material for the export-oriented textile sector.

Last year, flash floods in the country, especially in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, devastated large swathes of agricultural land, severely damaging the cotton crop.

It may be noted that on an overall basis, the national cotton production target has been set by the federal government at 12.77 million bales from 6.834 million acres in the country, including 4.986 million acres in Punjab, 1.659 million acres in Sindh, 5000 acres in KPK, and 181,000 acres in Balochistan for the 2023-24 season.

The province-wise production target set for cotton season 2023 included 8.336 million bales for Punjab, 4 million bales for Sindh, 430,000 bales for Balochistan, and 4000 bales for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.