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 5. TRADE  6. GULF



Oct 08 - 14, 2001

Cotton crop threatened by a new pest

Although the attack of Heliothus has been effectively countered, there is no respite as yet for the cotton crop as it has now been attacked by pink sundi in many areas of the Punjab.

The pest thrives in low temperature, and, as mercury has dropped in the last few weeks, the pink sundi that finds a habitat in stalks has surfaced in a big way. It affects the crop by lowering yield and creating yellow spots on cotton that undermine the crop's quality. Experts and officials are, however, confident of controlling the pest and hope that it would not have a significant effect on the yield that is expected to touch 11 million bales, if not cross that figure.

While the yield prospects of the crop remain healthy, those for farmers are not promising as the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) has not got in to business gear. It has announced the purchase of 30,000 bales from lower Sindh where picking is in progress and actually completed at some points. However, no payment has been made so far.

TCP is yet to set up eight purchase centres in Punjab. Picking has started in some regions of Punjab where sowing began early and where farmers are preparing for the wheat crop as wheat sown in November gives higher yield.

The crop was also picked early in these areas because of a pest attack. These areas mainly include Faisalabad, Sahiwal and Pakpattan.

But most parts of Punjab's cotton belt and in upper Sindh, the crop is in its last stage of maturing and picking is likely to be undertaken around the beginning of November. It would continue till mid January.

TCP's presence is not to be seen in any of these areas that are regarded as the artery of the cotton crop of Pakistan and where farmers have suffered continuous losses despite good crops in recent years because of the exploitative practices of the market.

Pakistani wheat rated above world standard

A laboratory of international repute at Sharjah, UAE, in its report has rated quality of wheat from Punjab as above the international standard.

Samples of the wheat were acquired by some private exporting parties from the Punjab Food Department and sent to the laboratory, it was officially announced on Tuesday.

The wheat samples were taken from godowns of the department at Multan. The department has also completed fumigation process of 15,000 tons of export quality wheat.

This wheat will be exported to Kenya by the private parties and Trading Corporation of Pakistan within next few days, it said.

The department is working to further prepare export quality wheat from its existing stock.

Oil refinery in Hub likely

Pakistan has asked Kuwait to set up a large-size oil refinery in the Hub coastal area to partially meet over 10 million tons product deficit per annum starting next year.

Sources close to Petroleum Minister Usman Aminuddin told that Kuwaiti authorities were given a green signal around a month ago to come up with a formal proposal to this effect.

This comes amid reports that the $1.2bn Iran-Pakistan Refinery Project that was to be constructed by Tehran near Hub is not forthcoming and Islamabad would be faced with large shortfalls after a year, these sources said.

The federal government has planned to increase oil supply coverage to a level equivalent to 45 days' consumption to meet any future long-term strategic needs but at least two refineries were required to plug the supply-demand gap.

The petroleum ministry was directed by economic coordination committee (ECC) of the cabinet last month to remain extra vigilant about demand and supply position of petroleum products and to further augment the reserves position.

Water shortage to hit Rabi crops

Indus River System Authority (Irsa), on Tuesday noted that in the coming Rabi season the country would experience around 51 per cent shortage of irrigation water, an official told.

A technical committee of Irsa, which consists of provincial irrigation secretaries met to chalk out strategy for distribution of water among the provinces in the light of projected shortage of 51 per cent.

Punjab, in the coming wheat-growing season, would get only 9.67 MAF of water against its total requirement of 19.75 MAF and, Sindh would get 7.24 MAF, almost half of its actual requirement of 14.9 MAF.

CE asks TCP to buy cotton

President Pervez Musharraf has directed the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to buy cotton from the farmers with a view to giving them better price of the commodity.

The president's directive came in the wake of his Adviser on Agriculture Shafi Niaz's written request seeking immediate intervention in the market to save the farmers from being financially crippled as they were not getting the support price of cotton.

Official sources said on Tuesday that Niaz has called for "massive buying" of cotton by the TCP as per the support price of Rs780 per 40 kg. Since the farmers were currently being offered Rs600, they were reluctant to invest in the next crop.

Textile ancillary units

Business circles are now reporting closure of textile ancillary units, a slow-down in fabrics manufacture and a virtual crash in prices of certain categories of textile quota items for the US following a virtual breakdown in Pakistan's export trade with US, Europe and other countries after September 11 incident.