Tuesday June 25, 2024

Pests, drought led to massive decline of cotton production in Pakistan

February 11, 2021

BEIJING: Cotton production in Pakistan witnessed a massive decline of about 35% to 5.57 million bales by the end of January, 2021, the lowest in 30 years, Gwadar Pro reported on Wednesday quoting Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA).

While multiple reasons can be identified behind the cotton plight, vigorous efforts are under way to reverse the tide.

The decline in cotton growth is mainly due to pests and drought, seed degradation, and reduction of planting area. “The main problem is pest infestation and increasing temperature”, said cotton grower Zafar Mehmood Khan.

“This year, white fly had caused serious impacts on cotton, even higher than those caused by pink worm.” As estimated by Prof. Dr. Jalal Arif from the Agriculture University of Faisalabad, the devastation brought by pink worm and white fly is as high as four million bales.

In addition, high temperatures during the critical month of September hampered the development of fruiting bodies. Heat tolerant cotton varieties are needed to fight against global warming, but there is still a long way to go. “our farmers are trying their best but with no success so far”, noted Zafar.

Pakistani cotton farmers also face a decline in seed quality that agricultural scientists say was in place 20 years ago. After introduction of BT cotton, an insect-resistant transgenic crop designed to combat the bollworm, in 2001, virtually no pest control or crop management has been done because they are deemed as unnecessary. But now the seed has lost its genetic superiority.

Under the threat of pest attack, uncertain weather conditions, and insufficient availability of certified seed, the cost of cotton growth has risen continuously in recent years, pushing more farmers to switch to other remunerable crops like corn, rice, and sugarcane. As a result, the area devoted to cotton is projected to decrease by 12 percent in the current fiscal year 2020-21.