COTTON UPDATE

PRODUCTION, IMPORTANCE, ROLE IN ECONOMY

M.R. CHAUDHRY
Mar 10 - 16, 2008

Cotton is the most important fiber crop that plays a dominant role in agrarian and industrial economy. Cotton accounts for 40 percent of total world fiber production. It is the most important textile fiber in the world. Amongst 80 cotton producing countries in the world, the United States, China and India were providing over half the world's cotton. India produced record high crop in 2004-2005 and since then it has been beating its own record. In 2006-2007 it acquired the second position in cotton production in the world leaving behind the United States of America, thus globally maintaining second position after China and in 2007-2008 India is expecting to achieve still a higher production of 31.0 million bales occupying the position in cotton production in the world.

It may be relevant to pinpoint that only five to six years ago India had been lagging behind Pakistan in cotton production, producing around 330 kgs per hectare. In 2005-2006 its yield was 472 kgs per hectare; in 2006-2007 its yield was 519 kgs per hectare and in 2007-2008 570 kgs per hectare.

While India was expecting 31 million bales of cotton production in 2007-2008, next season India may surpass its previous record as it expects to produce around 34-35 million bales of 170-kg each. Our performance may be even poorer than of 2007-2008, simply because we have not developed our own Bt cotton seed and having no other choice, we will be sowing obtained from our last season's cotton, which is infested and deteriorated by the attack of Mealy Bug and Leave Curl Virus on our 2007-2008 cotton crop. According to APP (13th January, 2008), cotton production during 2007 is estimated to be 11 million bales as compared to 13.02 million bales produced during the previous year and the target of 14.14 million bales. This shows a decline of 2.02 million bales. Our domestic consumption of cotton is estimated at 14.5-15 million bales.

In contrast to Pakistan, in India associations, organizations, institutions, government departments, banks and private companies concerned with cotton cultivation, handling, financing and marketing work together consistently and coherently for the promotion of cotton quantitatively as well as quantitatively. The results of their efforts are obvious. According to USDA India's cotton production continues to outpace its consumption needs. Indian cotton could begin to displace the U.S. cotton in other markets. The government of India first approved the use of Bt cotton in 2002. The number of Bt cotton varieties in India, duly approved by the government stood at 20 by the year, 2005.

ROLE OF COTTON IN PAKISTAN

Cotton is an important cash crop. Its fiber is known as "silver reed" and cotton is termed as ýthe life of the national economy" insofar as Pakistan is concerned. Cotton contributes to:

- 62-65 percent of foreign exchange earnings through textile products

- over $ 2.8 billion to the national economy

- 8 percent of the value added in the agriculture sector

- about 2 percent to GDP

Cotton provides mainstay to the millions of farmers and those linked with the cotton value addition chain. Social economic well being and lifestyle of cotton growers, textile sector etc. depend upon the cotton sector.

- According to economists, an increase of one million bales in cotton production amounts to half a percent increase in the country's GDP.

Pakistan is the world's fourth largest cotton producer, third largest exporter of raw cotton and a leading exporter of yarn.

Predicaments in the increase of cotton production in Pakistan and solutions

- No two organizations linked with cotton production are in co-ordination with each other. Every department and research centre is almost engaged in a solo flight. One important fact, which needs to be specifically mentioned is that Bt cotton varieties developed in India are playing an active and effective role in surpassing the production every year during the last Š years. India has been able to produce its own seed varieties by adopting GM technology and use fresh original seed every season, which is instrumental in increasing its yield per acre and setting new record every season. Pakistan has yet to traverse a long way to keep pace with India. Pakistan needs to take several consistent and coordinated efforts not only to meet its own indigenous demand but also to export its surplus cotton and cotton/textile products.

- High prices of agricultural inputs including electricity, oil, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc. are almost unaffordable for our small land-holders. At times when the crop is poor, it becomes awfully difficult for them to pay back the bank's loans.- High intensity of insects and pests attack un-nerve the poor farmers. That is the time when agriculture extension service staff and insurance companies" officials should ensure to make their services available to come to the rescue of the afflicted farmers. Absence of a proper cotton crop insurance system or a suitable system in the form of subsidies cannot solve the problem and soothe affected farmers.

- Quality and standard varieties of cotton seeds are hardly available. Quality seed is the basic requirement in agriculture without which fixing and achieving targets is impossible.

- Deficiency of irrigation water is a big constraint in getting better cotton crop. While water is a lifeline for all living beings, it is equally essential in agriculture. Cotton growers especially in the cotton belt (Multan, Khanewal, Vehari, Lodhran, Bahawal Nagar, Bahawalpur, Dera Gahazi Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Leiah and Rahimyar Khan districts) go on clamouring for timely and sufficient supply of irrigation water and they hardly get the required supply in time and in sufficient quantity. Canal Irrigation department must not show a casual attitude over this problem.

- Lack of advanced technologies is a big disadvantage. R&D centres such as National Institute of Bio-technology and Generic Engineering (NIBGE) Faisalabad and Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CMBH), University of the Punjab Lahore have reportedly submitted applications to the National Bio-Safety Committee (NBC) for their approval for commercialization and field trial of their versions of Bt cotton developed by them respectively for their Bt cotton variety: "IR-FH-901" and cotton variety: "MHH-93" and "CIM-482". National Bio-Safety Committee is considering both these applications under the Bio-Safety Rules 2005. We are optimistic that the said committee must have studied these applications and satisfied themselves with regard to the environmental safety and viability of these varieties and would accord their approval keeping the supreme national interest in view before it is too late.

- Our farmers need awareness and suitable agro professionalism. For that matter extension service has a great role to play for motivating them for progressive farming and adoption of modern technologies. Although, according to Agriculture Extension Department, Davis Road, Lahore, a monthly meeting of the agriculture experts and farmer community is held in every district and there is an agriculture free help line No.0800-15000 from 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 to solve the problems of farmers, the scribe strongly feels that extension service should be provided at the grass-root level in farms and fields, keeping in view the physical position of respective crops and farms as that proposition would prove more effective and beneficial.

- Adulterated and contaminated pesticides, fertilizers and sub-standard seeds gives a bad impact to our production and cause unbearable loss to farmers as after spending a lot of money the quality and quantity of production falls down miserably. In the past there was a proposal that agricultural courts would be established to deal with such cases. The matter is not being given a serious thought in the right earnest and greedy and capricious businessmen and dealers are allowed to play hell with the poor farmers. It warrants to leniency and latitude. The government must ensure that only quality chemicals, pesticides, sprays, medicines and seeds are supplied to farmers and those involved in selling No.2 products are taken to task.

- Increasing the area for cotton production is necessary to meet the ever-increasing home-grown demand of cotton as well as for export of cotton and cotton products, however, it has been seriously felt that there is almost no more substantial land available in Punjab and Sindh to increase the area for cotton crop cultivation, however, some areas of Balochistan particularly Sibi, Nasirabad, Kalat Division and Dera Ismail Khan district of N.W.F.P. have been found suitable for increasing cotton crop production and it has also been assessed by the experts that cotton quality would also be better due to ecological and climatic conditions available there. One thing which is of paramount importance for increasing the area of cotton production there is ensuring the availability of irrigation water besides political normalization.

- The government of Pakistan has decided to enhance cotton production to 20.70 million bales by the year 2015. This requires a modest increase in the area @ 25,000 acres annually in potential cotton growing areas of Balochistan and N.W.F.P. together with an average 5 percent growth of yield per acre. In this way the area under cotton crop cultivation would increase to 3.32 million hectares as against the estimated area of 3.22 hectares for 2005-2006, with an increase of yield by 3 percent, raising the yield per acre to 1060 kgs from the provisionally estimated yield of 686 kgs/hectare.

- Reducing or avoiding the use of pesticides, sprays and chemicals is possible to a great extent by adopting Bt technology. China, India and many other countries are giving high priority to developing their own research in producing Bt varieties of cotton and other crops to improve the productivity and minimize the use of pesticides, sprays and chemicals.

Evidently downfall of our cotton crop production is going to affect Pakistan's major and most important sector viz. textile sector including cotton ginning, spinning, weaving, knitting and garment industry, resulting in drastic shortfall of export earnings, closure of textile and allied industries and widespread unemployment. This is the right time for adopting Bt technology as the use of Bt technology in food and non-food products has brought a new era in agriculture. Now millions of the world's farmers now chose to grow over 100 million hectares of bio-tech crops. More than half the world's population lives in countries growing bio-tech crops.

According to G.M. for Bio-technology in Australia Mr. Nicholas Wood: "The extended use of safe bio-technology products is helping to enhance human health, improve environmental safety and feed a growing global population". He further stated that 10 billion kgs of carbon dioxide emissions have been eliminated because farmers using bio-tech crops do not have to till their land and use pesticides which are used in conventional farming. This provides Pakistan a guideline to be abreast with the new technologies in agriculture otherwise it will not be able to achieve targets, meet its own requirements and uplift its economy besides removing the impediments discussed above.