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August 5, 2018

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Cotton crop seen collapsing 21 percent to 11mln bales in 2019 on water shortages

LAHORE: Farmers and ginners are expecting cotton production of around 11 million bales this crop year against the official target of over 14 million due to poor quality seeds, late sowing, water shortage and low acreage in high-yielding region.

Officials were, however, upbeat on Saturday about the harvest level similar to that was achieved in 2017/18. Water availability has lately been picked up with relatively low onslaught of pests on cotton plants, they said.

Pakistan Central Cotton Committee data showed that the cotton sowing target of 2.95 million hectares has already been missed by around 10 percent as sowing could be completed at 2.66 million hectares of land. Punjab marginally remained short of target of 2.31 million hectares by planting cotton at 2.29 million hectares.

There was serious dent in cotton area under cultivation in Sindh where per acre yield was used to be far better than the national average. Record water shortage badly hit cotton sowing in the province.

Ihsanul Haq, chairman of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Forum said cotton production could be around 11 million bales this year as water scarcity affected the cotton production. Cotton production stood at 11.5 million bales in last season of 2017/18.

Haq said water shortage immensely hit Sanghar district which is the number one cotton producing district of the country. “It has never seen such low water availability.”

Farmers of the area were even forced to use bad quality groundwater to make cotton sowing possible.

The official data showed that crop cultivation in Sindh, during the current season, witnessed decrease of 31 percent as compared to corresponding period of the last season. Only 68 percent sowing has been recorded in the province compared with the target due to severe shortage of water.

Farmers said around half of cotton planted this season was delayed due to historic low water flows, leading to slow place of cotton sowing. The late cotton sowing has been vulnerable to severe heat and rains and resultantly its production could be reduced, they added.

Khalid Mehmood Khokar, president of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad said cotton production could barely reach 10 million bales against the official target of 14.37 million bales.

“If Punjab is able to produce six million bales and Sindh three million bales, I think it would be great achievement given the present bleak scenario,” Khokar, who is also a cotton grower from Multan.

He said white fly, mealy bug and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) have emerged as biggest threats to standing cotton crop.

“I feel pity while seeing cotton scenario of the country,” he added. “There is no emphasis on improving seed development and marketing system in the country.”

A senior official of Punjab agriculture department argued that cotton crop is relatively better nowadays if compared with last year’s corresponding period.

The official said there was water shortage during the sowing period, but later rains have helped in meeting irrigation needs of the crop. The provincial Directorate General of Pest Warning and Quality Control of Pesticides registered some pest incidences of white fly, jassid, thrips, mealy bug and CLCV in some districts of Punjab.

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