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October 5, 2019

Cotton estimates cut by 24.2pc as pest attack, weather trim yield

Business

October 5, 2019

LAHORE: Realising the downbeat cotton arrivals in the market, the government on Friday sharply slashed the industrial crop’s estimate for this year to 10.2 million bales from an earlier target of 13.46 million bales – a move seen by analysts as a major dent to an already shrinking economy.

The Cotton Crop Assessment Committee dragged down cotton output estimate by 24.2 percent over the initial official target taking into account the “challenges faced by the cotton crop especially high input prices, insect pests pressure and higher temperature”. The revised production estimate would be 15 percent down from 12 million bales produced last year.

The committee announced the official estimate of 10.20 million bales of 170 kilograms each at the first meeting, presided over by Mohammad Ayub, additional secretary of ministry of national food security and research. As per the revised official assessment of cotton output, an expected production of the Punjab would be 6.20 million bales instead of 8.64 million bales. Sindh’s production estimate was cut to 3.90 million bales from an earlier anticipated size of 4.60 million bales. Outputs from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been assessed at 0.10 million bales instead of 0.12 million bales. Representatives from Sindh and Punjab, Plant Protection Department, Trading Corporation of Pakistan, Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, Pakistan Central Cotton Committee, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma), Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association, Karachi Cotton Association, and Cotton growers attended the meeting.

Ayub said cotton crop size is assessed on the basis of data provided by provincial governments, yield parameters of cotton. “[He] ensured the second assessment will be held after 3-4 weeks’ time,” an official statement quoted the secretary as saying.

Member representing Aptma said the assessment is very realistic and “the ground realities are very close to this forecast”.

Cotton growers emphasised the need of price intervention by the government in such a way that benefit should go directly to growers. Representatives of ginners and farmers criticised federal government’s policy towards agriculture sector, castigating failures of Islamabad in supporting cotton growers. The country might be left with no option but to import up to 3.5 million bales to make up for the shortfall, they said.

Ihsanul Haq, chairman of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Forum termed decline in cotton production as a “matter of serious concern for the whole economy”. “The government failed to take measures to adapt to climate change,” Haq added.

Khalid Khokhar, president of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) told journalists that loss of cotton production is bigger than what is being projected by the government. Recent cotton arrival figures showed a 35 percent reduction in the Punjab and a 18 percent decline in Sindh over the last year.

“That trend would lead Pakistan’s cotton production (to fall at) around 8 million against the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s set target of 15 million bales, meaning thereby a loss of 7 million bales or exports loss of $7 billion in the next year and increase of $2-3 billion cotton import to meet the industrial requirement,” he said.

Khokhar said Pakistan Kissan Ittehad apprised the price review committee several times that cotton prices were below the cost of production since June 2019 and if support price was not announced the grower would not invest in spray and fertiliser and crop size would shrink. But the committee could not reach to any decision until now despite recommendations of the National Assembly Special Committee on Agricultural Products in April this year, and resolution passed by the legislative house during the same month regarding early announcement of support price.

Khokhar alleged that Aptma dominates the committee. Around 4 million bales have already been imported as duty free, he said.

PKI president demanded of the government to assess crops losses for maize, rice and cotton and announce relief package in addition to implementing the recommendations of the National Assembly Special Committee on Agricultural Products.

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