Cotton which is known as the silver fibre is the second most important cash crop of Pakistan

Apr 19 - 25, 2004

Agriculture is considered to be the backbone of the economy of Pakistan. But it will not be an exaggeration to say that cotton is the backbone of our agriculture and ultimately of our economy. This is for the reasons that cotton crop provides six "F" as fibre, food, fuel, fodder, fertilizer and farmer livelihood apart from employing millions of people right from its sowing and harvesting in fields to the processing in the ever expanding textile industry, ginning factories, oil expelling units and allied industries of the country. In fact indeed, cotton is a source of survival of our national economy. It is the biggest cash crop of the country as it earns over 60 per cent of foreign exchange export earning through its export of raw material and finished products. It also provides raw material to local domestic cotton industry comprising 503 textile mills, 1235 ginning factories and 8.1 million spindles and over 5000 oil-expelling units. It has over 55 per cent share in total vegetable oil produced in the country.

Cotton which is known as the silver fibre is the second most important cash crop of Pakistan, in terms of area and value-added earning after wheat. It is cultivated over about 12 per cent of the total cultivated area in the country. There is a room to increase cotton production of the country as in 1991-92, Pakistan ranked third globally and picked up a record crop of 12.8 million bales from an area less than that of currently under cultivation, after China and the US, in the production and was first in cotton export. The domestic textile industry has grown phenomenally during the past several years, making Pakistan as the largest exporter of cotton yarn in the world and a prominent exporters of cotton fabrics, garments and textile made-ups. Pakistan is a leading exporter of good quality cotton catering to the global requirements of the textile industries and providing more than 40000 tons of oil to the industry. More than 35 per cent of the total production is shipped abroad annually to earn foreign exchange.

Cotton area in Pakistan is 2.9 million hectares and production 10.7 million bales, or 1.81 million tons, with a yield of 617 kg per hectare during 2000-2001. About 80 per cent of the national production is in Punjab and the rest is produced in other provinces. The standing committee on cotton crop assessment has announced to fix target of 10 million bales of cotton production for the year 2003-2004. The province-wise estimate is as: Punjab(703 mbales), Sindh (2.25 mbales), Balochistan (0.112 mbales) and NWFP 0.012 mbales). Important varieties are grown in the country Chandi-95, Sohni, Krishma, CRIS-134, CRIS-9, CIM-473, CIM-482, FH-900, RH-500, NIAB-78, FH-901. etc. Still Pakistan is behind the production of unit area basis as compared with the advanced cotton growing countries of the world like USA, Australia, Brazil, Russia and Syria.

Over the last several years, raw cotton and its textile products have contributed on an average about 65 per cent of the total annual national exports besides providing employment to a sizeable manpower of the country. It also yields 3.5 to 3.6 million tons of cotton seeds, which contributes over 64 per cent of the total domestic edible oil production. Seed cotton (phutti) as produced by the farmers is ginned to give lint and cotton seed. The latter is used as a feed to the livestock or crushed to obtain oil and oil cakes. Cotton seed oil is mixed with soybean or sunflower oils by the mills to manufacture edible oils. Cotton seed is also used extensively in milk production. In addition over two million tons of cotton oil cake is also obtained which is used as livestock feed. A significant part of cottonseed is also fed to the lactating animals for milk production. Lint obtained from cotton seed is either exported as such or converted into yarn for export or for domestic use to manufacture cloth and garments to meet domestic demand and for export. Some cotton waste is also exported.

Seed cotton brings cash return to the farmers, gives livelihood to the ginneries, provides raw material to the textile industry and in all these operations, is a source of employment both in rural and urban areas. It is a matter of great interest that raw cotton and its products (cotton waste, cotton yarn, thread, ready-made garments) annually contributed, on an average over 51 percent of the total exports of the country during the last five years. The value of exports of raw cotton has varied from year to year depending on the exportable surplus after meeting the domestic demand particularly of the textile industry. Thus, cotton plays a vital role in the economic development of the country in both the majors sectors i.e. agriculture and industry. Punjab and Sindh are the major cotton growing provinces The respective shares of the two provinces in cotton production are estimated at 81 and 19 percent, respectively.

Cotton is a major Kharif season crop and planted from early April in Sindh and May and June in the Punjab. The time of sowing is so adjusted that the young seedlings escape the early summer heat as much as possible. The climate of middle and lower Sindh is milder than that of upper Sindh and the Punjab. It sown on nearly 3 million hectares, contributing 30 percent to the value-added by major crops. It is grown on about 12 percent of the cropped area which is higher than any other cash crop. It is grown mostly on the alluvial plains of the Indus basin. Soil texture is silty loam, not high in sand or clay content. These soils are deep and have high water holding capacity most of which are available to the plants during the growing period. It competes directly with rice in those areas where both crops can be cultivated. Cotton in combination with winter crops also competes indirectly with sugarcane as the latter occupies land resources round the year. The recommended plant population in cotton varies from 19,000 to 23,000 plants per acre depending upon the variety. Four to six irrigations are required The average yield at the country level has ranged from 550 to 625 kg/hectare during 1992-93 to 1997-98. The yield of cotton in the Punjab, which contributes nearly 82 percent in the total production ranged from 470 to 602 kg/hectare. The insecticidal spray on cotton is normally 7-8 and it depends upon the intensity of the attack and population.

Cotton lint production is one-fourth of Egypt, Turkey and Mexico and about one-half of USA. Although, Pakistan ranked fifth on the basis of acerage and sixth in respect of cotton production in the world, but it was thirty sixth on the basis of yield per acre. Similarly, the acerage yield per acre of cotton is lowest as compared to other cotton growing countries of the world. The cotton growing countries are stepping up their production whereas Pakistan has not yet registered satisfactory progress in per hectare yields. In Pakistan, for industry, over 9 million bales of 170 kg each are required for domestic consumption in the textile industry while over one million bales are exported. Seed is one of the most important inputs in cotton production. It plays a key role in enhancing the productivity of the crop. Being open pollinated crop, experts recommended to plant entire area with certified seed every year. The grower also invariably complains about ineffectiveness of pesticides either because of their adulteration/mixing or under dosing recommended by the distributors to encourage the sale of their products. The alteration practices in the pesticide trade are increasing because of inadequate testing facilities and poor implementation of agricultural pesticides ordinance. As a result, the economy of both the farmers and the country has suffered. Effective measure should be taken by the government to control such obnoxious work.