COTTON: SILVER FIBER

Cotton is a very important Kharif crop of Pakistan, requiring only 20 percent of water needed for paddy.

M.R. CHAUDHRY
June 18 - 24, 2007

Cotton accounts for 82 percent of the value addition in the agriculture sector and about 2 percent to GDP, Its share is over $2.8 billion to the national exchequer. Millions of farmers are directly associated with growing and producing of cotton. The Government has ambition to expend textile industry by the year, 2008. According to an estimate, increasing one million bales of raw cotton production brings about more then half a percent increase to GDP. That is why it is called 'Silver Fiber'. However, to meet the textile sector's need, the country imported raw cotton worth $ 68.245 million as compared to $32.970 million during March, 2006, showing an increase of $35.275 million. Cotton import rose by 58 percent during the first 9 months of the current fiscal year as the country imported raw cotton worth $455.610 million during the period: July, 2006 to March, 2007 as against an import of cotton worth $ 287.632 million during the same period last fiscal year.

Further raise of import was also expected during April and May. Pakistan is one of the largest producers of cotton but it has failed to produce adequate quantity of quality cotton, which is one of the major reasons for import of this commodity. Industrialists (textile sector) import long staple cotton, as produced in India, USA and Brazil. Expectedly, the raw cotton import may surpass 2.5-3 million bales to keep our textile mills fully operative. Some lopsided Government's policies towards textile industry need to be addressed as these policies are badly affecting the textile sector as well as the country's economy, agriculture and increasing unemployment and poverty.

The Government is aware of the importance of this crop in the national economy. The Federal Committee of Agriculture (FCA) fixed the target of cotton production for the fiscal year, 2006-07 at 13.816 million bales from an area of 3.247 million hectares as against the current year's achievement of 13 million bales.

Pakistan enjoys a unique position in producing cotton in the world. It ranks fourth after China, USA and India. It is one of the biggest exporters of cotton yarn. The highest production of cotton in the history of Pakistan was about 15million bases in 2004-2005. Producing more cotton means earning more foreign exchange. Introduction of new varieties is a continuous process in view of technical development and mechanical innovations in the textile industry in the world for producing blended yarns and for non-spinning purposes

Pakistan per acre yield is 781 kgs per hectare while in other major cotton producing countries it is much higher for example:

COUNTRY

YIELD KGS PER ACRE

Israel

1818

Australia

1802

Syria

1571

Mexico

1312

Turkey

1289

Spain

1218

Brazil

1209

China

1119

Greece

1081

Egypt

939

USA

951

With the increasing consumption of more than 14 million bales of long fiber cotton due to rapid expansion, planning, modernization and restructuring of the textile industry in Pakistan, there is a need in quantitative and qualitative improvement in the production of cotton with in the country.

Cotton in the world is more vulnerable to different types of pests. The government is, therefore, striving to encourage pest management. New technologies are being transferred among the farming community through all possible means including electronic media. High priority is being give to the production of clean and contamination free cotton for which a premium of Rs 50 per 40 kg has also been announced by the government. Cotton standardization and gradation programmes have been introduced to improve the quality. Cotton production potential in Balochistan and D.I khan in NWFP is being harnessed to increase production of the country. Federal Government is providing support to the provincial agriculture department of Balochistan and NWFP by supplying certified seeds and farm implements in addition to the training of the officials and growers in cotton and pest management. Research scientists are endeavouring to develop cotton seed variety resistant to pest dispensing with the need of frequent chemical sprays, which are injurious to cotton growers health. Pakistan research council is going to evolve high utility and quality cotton varieties. TCP's role is no doubt vital in ensuring support prices and safeguarding genuine interests of cotton growers.

Common constraints/problem in wheat, rice and cotton production and solution:

Pakistan is now a water scarce country. The need of the hour is construction of large water reservoirs like Kalabagh Dam, Ghazi Brotha etc. Although different water conservation schemes like lining of canals and water channels are in progress and new irrigation technologies like sprinkler and drip irrigation systems are being prioritized, successful implementation of these technologies depend upon adequate extension service to farmers and creating awareness and culture for their acceptance and application in true words and spirit. Irrigation water is the pre-requisite for agriculture and without big water reservoirs, interim and peace-meal methods cannot prove helpful and sustainable.

Ineffective support price implementation by the agencies concerned is a great problem leading to cause disappointment to farmers.

Credit facility for procurement of agricultural machinery, implement, fertilizers and other inputs may be raised suitably in view of the increasing cost thereof. At the same time their supply may also be ensured at reasonable prices. Sub-standard agricultural medicines and fertilizers should be curbed.

Seed, being the basic input, it should be ensured by the concerned department, Agriculture and Seed Supply Corporation, that certified seeds of all crops are readily available at affordable prices and, if possible, at the farmer's doorstep.

The idea of insurance of crops, as initiated by the government of Punjab, has been floating in the media for quite some time. It would be better if it is implanted without further delay to give some security to the farmers in case of natural calamities like floods, wind storms, hail storms, drought, earthquake, land sliding, pests attack etc. especially cotton crop, which needs a huge investment of money on inputs, including pesticides, which are vulnerable to growers' health, environmental safety and eco-system.

Power shortage and undeclared load-shedding, besides affecting other sectors, is badly affecting agriculture. This problem must be taken care of by the government and WAPDA at the earliest otherwise the targets fixed by the Government would remain a far-fetched idea. It is, however, appreciable that a discount of 25% on tube-well bills for agriculture has been announced. It must not be stopped to keep the farmers relieved of some financial burden in this input. In East Punjab (India) electricity supply for agriculture is free of cost.

Irrigation water supply in Balochistan and D.I. Khan in N.W.F.P. may be ensured to increase the area for growing cotton and enhancing cotton production to meet the needs of our textile industry to avoid importing cotton from other countries.

Awareness amongst the cotton growers may be created through extension service and educational schemes for producing 'pollution free' and better quality of cotton for the sake of value addition in our textile products and garments.