Pakistan has been suffering a colossal loss of millions of rupees because of polluted cotton, which is a national loss and a setback to the economy.

Apr 09 - 15, 2007

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has recently announced a special premium under "Clean Cotton Programme at Rs.50 per maund (40 kgs). This programme is being launched by the Ministry of Textile. Fourteen ginning factories in Punjab and six in the province of Sindh have been selected for the Clean Cotton Programme, which are expected to provide 1,00,000 bales of cotton. Apparently this scheme is meant to benefit farmers/cotton growers and also to ensure procuring clean and pollution-free cotton for export as well as for use in our textile industry, evidently for producing high quality fabric and value added textile products but in actual fact the real beneficiaries would be the mill-owners rather than cultivators, as usual. The government should, therefore, ensure that farmers should be the actual beneficiaries under the scheme so far as the premium is concerned. The rate of cotton should also be fixed before hand i.e. before cotton is grown in the field and it should not be allowed to fall afterwards in order to save farmers from the exploitation of the middlemen and the stockists. This will help in up-keeping the interest and tempo of farmers. This factor will go a long way in obtaining good results for increasing the production of cotton in the country as well as improving its quality.

It has been noticed with great concern that Pakistan has been suffering a colossal loss of millions of rupees because of polluted cotton, which is a national loss and a setback to our economy. Besides the loss after turning our fiber to fabric, the quality of which in the international market becomes questionable and does not fetch competitive price.

It is heartening that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has recently performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Rs.10 billion Textile City, being developed by Pakistan Textile City Limited (PTCL), a public-private partnership company, over an area of 1250 acres at Post Qasim Industrial Zone. As pointed out by the Prime Minister the government was setting up three garment cities in the country, the first of which has already been inaugurated in Lahore and another would be set up in Karachi and the third one at Faisalabad. These are surely big steps leading towards the government's plans for textile value addition. And in order to produce value added textile products in Pakistan for export in the international market, besides other inputs, infra-structure, machinery for preparation of garments and skill, ensuring availability of pollution free cotton (and organic cotton) would be a pre-requisite, as also to fulfill WTO's requirements.

In order to get the maximum benefit from cotton crop, it should be ensured that cotton picked from the field should be free from all types of pollution, dregs and wastes. This would in the national interest as well as in the interest of farmers. Pollution not only affects cotton, it also subsequently deteriorates the quality and standard of yarn, cloth and other textile products. The following measures should be taken while picking cotton to ensure collection of pollution-free cotton.

1- Picked cotton should be free from pieces of paper, fibers of polythene, feathers of birds, pieces of cigarettes, cigarette ash and carbon, empty match boxes, match sticks, straws, wrappers of toffees, dry leaves of trees, grass, immature (raw) cotton balls, branches of plants, fibers of jute and taat (pieces of jute) .

2- Cotton picking should be started when more than 50 per cent of cotton balls are ready for picking so that high quality cotton could be procured.

3- Cotton should not at all be picked from raw cotton balls because their fiber is weak and fragile and is not suitable for end-use. Similarly, no picking should be made from unhealthy and sick cotton balls as it would degrade the quality of cotton.

4- The best time for starting cotton picking is 10.00 to 11.00 a.m when dew drops would have evaporated and cotton thus obtained does not suffer from any moisture, soaking and discolouring, so that ginning process is not affected due to dampness and moisture. Cotton should not be picked when the weather is cloudy.

5- It would still be better if cotton picking is arranged under the supervision of a skilled supervisor and picking should be arranged from one point of the field to the other in the form of a row. In this way, supervision becomes easier as well as issuing instructions by supervisor to the labour engaged for the purpose.

6- Cotton picking should be arranged from lower parts of plants and should continue step by step upward so that quality of cotton so collected may not suffer from falling of lower cotton balls, leaves, branches and other un-desirable items.

7- The last picking of cotton should not be mixed up with the second and third pickings as it has been noticed that the fiber of cotton collected from the last picking is sub-standard.

8- During the process of cotton picking, it should be ensured that cotton picked is placed at a dry cotton cloth or at a dry clean place so that it does not get polluted.

9- Cotton should not be filled in jute sacks or worn out sacks - rather it should be filled in sacks made of cotton cloth and transported to ginning factories. Eco-friendly cotton bags are replacing the polythene bags.

10- Every variety of cotton should be picked separately.

11- Sub-standard, raw, disease affected and discoloured cotton should be kept separate.

12- Labour involved in picking cotton should not be paid charges on the basis of the quantity of cotton picked and collected only but quantity and quality both should be kept in view so that their approach may change from the quantity to the quantity-cum-quality picking.

13- Cotton should be stored in dry, clean and airy godowns.

14- Cotton should not be kept in the stores for a long time. The big landlords instead of selling their cotton to middleman and dealer should sell it directly to ginning factories.