RECORD COTTON PRODUCTION

The cotton production has gone all-time high stood at 13.102 million bales

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Jan 17 - 30, 2005

The meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad on Wednesday last was informed that cotton production in the country would exceed the target by over three million bales which would help raise the GDP to 7 percent. The cabinet was further informed that the recent country wide rains in the growing season of wheat, increased acreage of wheat crop and increased water availability would help meet the target of over 21 million tonnes of wheat production.

The cotton production has gone all time high as the crop arrivals, recorded as on January 1 at the ginneries, stood at 13.102 million bales, showing an increase of 63.18 percent over the corresponding period of the last year. This is the highest crop volume Pakistan has ever had in its history. The remaining three months may add another two to three million bales in the net arrival to comfortably take the total between 15 and 16 million bales. The arrival as on December 15, 2004, was recorded at 11.744 million bales against 7.482 million bales of the corresponding period of 2003. This was 66.99 percent more than the last year, according to the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) report.

According to the report, Sindh's contribution in the arrival has gone up from 2.447 to 2.699 million bales and Punjab's from 9.297 to 10.403 million bales. For the last fortnight, district Sanghar in Sindh and district Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab surpassed other cotton producing districts by recording 0.8112 million and 1.418 million bales production, respectively. The report added that 12.102 million bales were pressed against 10.447 million bales of the last fortnight. The Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) picked up 12.6635 million bales against 0.9830 million bales as on December 15. Exporters bought 1.2663 million bales. Their share in cotton market as on December 15 was 0.3388 million bales. Unsold stock with the ginners has reduced from 8.188 million bales to 2.4522 million bales.

The Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) had estimated cotton production for 2004-05, at 13 million bales. The production figures were giving a strong indication that net cotton output would surpass the official target. The crop would continue to arrive at the ginneries by March 31. This would add at least another 4 to 5 million bales in net cotton production. Growers and ginners are confident that this year cotton production would be around 15 million bales and for the same reason they want the TCP to remain in the market.

The TCP was directed by the government at an early stage to enter cotton procurement so that the growers and ginners do not suffer any setback due to bumper crop. This policy has worked to the expectations of the authorities since the TCP was working to arrest the downward trend in cotton rates in the open market.

These figures clearly show that earlier forecasts by the Ministry concerned estimates that cotton production between 12.5 to 13 million bales were totally baseless. Now that the cotton economy of the country finds itself in such a comfortable position, it is high time the planners and manager decided to plan for the further so as to ensure against too frequent crises like it has continued to face over a long past. First thing first, due emphasis needs to be laid on the urgency of correcting the crop forecasting system. For as the grim experience has been, vacillations in the fortunes of the cotton economy have revolved around too many shifts and changes in crop estimates, season after season. Unfortunately, despite numerous efforts made to streamline agriculture inconsistency in crop assessments it has continued to prevail, thereby leading to grave uncertainties, which adversely affect all the stakeholders, more so the growers and the spinners.

Needless to point out, these uncertainties contribute a great deal often to fears of inadequate return on their labour and investment. It will thus be seen that for want of a reliable system of crop forecasting, the cotton sector has remained best with too many crises. There is an urgent need, therefore, to address crop forecasting on scientific lines as it is done in the advanced agricultural countries around the world.

Next, in importance, is the need of putting in place an unfailing pricing system, capable of meeting the requirements of all the stakeholder, again, focusing the growers and the end users in the country's leading textile sector. This has, probably, not been possible because of the fact that, despite so many attempts at reforming agriculture, it has remained stuck with its age-old status. This has reference to the primitive ways of subsistence farming as compulsively carried out by poor tillers of the soil, barely making enough to keep body and soul together, besides the inequitable land tenure system worked out during the pre-independence British rule in the subcontinent. Making suitable changes, perhaps, escaped the attention of early planners because of the enthusiasm to transform the economy through emphasis on industrialization. As agriculture was then relegated to the background, no serious bid could be made for wholesome agrarian reform, with a view to revolutionizing the system and boosting production with due incentives for the farmers. It is, however, another matter that, at least, twice land reforms were introduced, primarily from a political thrust, but failed to make much headway.

Now that the resurgence of the cotton segment with an unprecedented harvest is apt to inspire ideas of bigger efforts to sustain the trend, it will be in the fitness of things to make a beginning with the revival of cotton economy from an imaginative business-oriented approach. A beginning in this direction may be made by reforming the marketing system, whose timely correction can help boost the cotton economy to its full potential.