QUALITY COTTON PRODUCTION IN BALOCHISTAN
SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER, QUETTA
Aug 27 - Sep 02, 2007
The cotton and textile products are regarded as the main exporting items, which earn handsome foreign exchange for Pakistan. It is because of contaminated cotton that International Textiles Manufacturing Forum has been advising the member textile units round the world to avoid using yarn and fabrics from Pakistan as inputs. Certainly, low quality textile products are not going to fetch good price in the world market. Contamination in bales of cotton has acquired disrepute for Pakistani yarn and fabrics in the international market. India and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world, which are cited for producing taint-cotton.
The cotton produced in Balochistan fulfills the export standards in international market. A superior quality of cotton can ensure high quality textile products for export. The cotton produced in Khuzdar, Usta Mohammed, Dera Allahyar, Lasbella and other areas of central Balochistan are of superb quality. The cotton experts are of the opinion that Balochistan is producing superb quality cotton of grade I, II and III, which would help the textile mills to produce value added and higher quality goods. The cotton produced in Balochistan is not contaminated to the degree as produced in other provinces of Pakistan. International experts have recognized the finest quality cotton production in Balochistan matching the long staple produced in Egypt. Historically, Balochistan had been exporting finest quality cotton to many parts of the world, mainly to China, Central and West Asia using the port facilities at Kalmat, Sonmiani and Jiwani that made the local economy sustainable when the province was under the sway of Khans of Kalat.
Cotton is grown in many areas of Balochistan. The province, especially central Balochistan provides favorable climate conditions for growing cotton in bulk. The local growers abstain from maximum use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers contrary to the growers of Sindh and Punjab where contamination in bales of cotton is a common and significant problem. The growers in Balochistan spray only for two times in a season as compared to the growers in Sindh and Punjab who spray pesticides more than 8 times at different stages.
Since there was shortage of water for irrigation in the province, the experts motivated the growers to grow cotton, which requires lesser water than paddy crop. It proved successful and the people started cultivating cotton. In the year 2000-01, the cotton was cultivated in 100,000 acres of land and Balochistan produced 112,000 bales of superb quality cotton, more than the estimated target of 10,0000 bales. During FY 2001-02, 150,000 acres of land brought under cotton cultivation and the set target was also achieved.
Approximately, 73,000 acres of land in command area of Patfeeder and Kirthar canal were converted to a cotton growing area in Naseerabad district for the season 2001-02. Over 100,000 acres in Sibi, Lasbela, Khuzdar, Kachhi and Awaran districts have been reserved for cotton sowing in the province.
Naseerabad the only canal-irrigated district in the province has witnessed a replacement of paddy by cotton crop over the last five-year period. The reasons behind this diversification of cropping pattern were obvious. Cotton growing as compared to other crops including paddy, is thought more profitable by the landowners in Naseerabad. It saves resources, working hours and needs less water than other crops.
Though reports from Naseerabad were not satisfactory during FY 2001-02, yet Khuzdar, Lasbela and other districts in central Balochistan had a good yield both in quality and quantity.
During FY 2001-03, the cotton was cultivated side by side with paddy in Naseerabad district. The insects including 'American sundi' attacked paddy along with the cotton. This increased spray of pesticides.
Some farmers reportedly complained that seeds provided by the Agriculture Department at subsidized rates, were not the quality seeds. They alleged that seeds were from the old stocks with flawed germination. For the cotton season (2003-04), crop area and production targets envisaged an increase of 5% in area and 4.5% in production over the achievements realized in 2002-03 season.
There is a need to practice 'crop zoning' in order to get rid of the problem of spreading pests and diseases from one area to other. The new areas should be included in cotton research and development Program to enhance the volume of domestic crop as well as future demand of raw cotton both by the domestic textile industry and the international market.
The military government of General Pervez Musharraf promoted cotton-growing culture in rural areas of Balochistan providing official patronage to the local growers of cotton. It provided incentives to the growers of cotton in Balochistan, which included diversification of cropping pattern, switching over to cotton from rice and provision of better quality cottonseeds to growers at subsidized rates. Though late, yet the military government rationally recognized the Balochistan's potential of producing superior quality of the cotton. The best cottonseed varieties had been selected for Balochistan, which gave good results.
The military Government had planned to establish two more ginning factories at Khuzdar and Lasbela for patronizing the local growers of cotton in the province. Three ginning factories were already established in Naseerabad district. The establishment of ginning factories in private sector will give boost to buying of lint cotton at reasonable prices facilitating the local growers sell their yield at local level.
The cotton policy should fulfill the national objectives and responsive to the global demand and protect the interests of the various stakeholders. Of course, a futuristic vision of the global demand of various types of raw cotton needs due consideration while formulating the national cotton production and marketing policies.
Firstly, the cotton policy should be responsive to the farmers' needs for enhancing its productivity and standard. The support price mechanism for seed cotton/lint cotton should continue in order to safeguard the farmers' interest. Secondly, Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) should be given the role of market stabilization. Thirdly, marketing of cotton based on staple and grade be made mandatory to ensure interest among the growers and ginners for producing quality cotton. This objective can be achieved by activating the implementation of the provisions of Cotton Control Act by the provincial governments. At the same time, the campaign for producing contamination-free cotton should also continue.
Fourthly, the provincial governments need to keep strict watch on the unauthorized cultivation of imported BT-cotton in order to avoid any negative impact on the country's cotton production. There have been reports that the cultivation of such cotton in certain areas has been responsible to activate the virus problem.
Finally, the federal Government should continue its technical and financial support to the provincial governments in order to promote cotton cultivation in potential areas like Balochistan.
The policy-makers should remove drawbacks, which obstruct the production and processing of contamination-free cotton. These drawbacks include hoarding of cotton by rich cotton growers and ginners and quick export of yarn and fabric by the spinners. These practices have adverse fallout effects for the cotton-growers at large and earn a bad name for Pakistani yarn and fabrics in the international market.
The government should develop an effective monitoring mechanism of the whole course from picking of cotton in the fields, transportation and to the storage of yield. It has been observed that cotton is stored in a risky environment that contaminates it. Moreover, erratic picking in the fields and defective transportation are other causes of contamination in bales of cotton in Pakistan.
The excessive use of pesticides and other spray of chemicals should be avoided. The government should offer maximum incentives for production and processing of contamination-free cotton to the growers and ginners. The incentive slab should be incorporated in the cotton policy. The incentive should be offered for contamination found to be below one gram per bale level. This will encourage growth and processing of contamination-free cotton.
There is need to form a Cotton Research and Development Institute (CRDI) that would give its recommendations on development of long staple cotton varieties, production of contamination free cotton and resolution of growers' problems in the country. This would help develop domestic textile industry for producing higher count yarn, as long staple cotton is the requirement of higher counts. The CRDI's recommendations should be incorporated in the annual cotton policy.
Vertical expansion pattern of cotton production should be adopted for improving per hectare yield following the scientific cotton production technology as applied in China, Spain, Australia and Turkey. This will meet the raw material requirements of domestic textile industry. Premium price payment paradigm should be followed to encourage the growers for production of contamination free cotton. Federal Government, mainly its agencies like TCP, should pay a premium price to the growers for contamination-free cotton. Naturally, the contamination-free cotton is produced in Balochistan only or in some areas of southern Punjab, the TCP must pay the enhanced prices of premium cotton to growers. The poor growers produce No.1 category cotton and they should not be discriminated against the chieftains and feudal in any way.
The government should make all the inputs from quality seeds, agro medicines to water available in time for the growers of cotton in order to improve cotton production both in terms of quantity and quality. An experts' team should survey the cotton growing areas, all over the country at the time of sowing and picking up of cotton, providing necessary guideline to the growers on the spot.