June 30 - July 06, 2008

Non-availability of quality cotton seed, pesticides, high cost inputs, shortage of water have resulted in decline in the cotton sowing area across the country by around 20 percent.

Cotton sowing is in the final stages both in Sindh and Punjab, and is expected to end by the end of June. For the 2008-09 cotton season, about 3.2 million hectares land was available but the farmers this year are reluctant to grow cotton mainly due to high cost of inputs and some other reasons, agriculturists told PAGE.

They say unregistered and uncertified Bt cotton seed is available in the market, which is affected by mealy bug attack and the farmers believe it would hurt cotton crop.

Reports also show that water for cotton crop might not be available on time. Besides, there have been increases in cost of inputs, including pesticides and DAP, they adds.

They said that peak and best season for cotton sowing has ended and sowing has completed only on 2.5-2.7 million hectares, against available 3.2 million hectares, depicting a decline of 15-20 percent against last season.

A spokesman of Agriculture Department told PAGE that as many as 4167.99 acres of land was brought under cotton cultivation in Punjab this year against 5461.28 acres last year, showing 23.68 percent decrease in the cultivated area.

He said that the government had fixed cotton sowing target of 6227.17 acres for the year 2008 of which 66.93 percent has been achieved. Giving details, he said 3272.602 acres of land in core areas of RY Khan, Bahawalpur, Vehari, Bahawalnagar, Lodhran, Muzaffargarh, Khanewal, Multan, Rajanpur, DG Khan and Layyah districts was brought under cotton sowing against 4532.092 acres last year. Over 823 acres of land in non-core areas of the six districts of Punjab, including Sahiwal, Jhang, TT Singh, Faisaladad, Pakpattan and Okara were brought under cotton cultivation against 863.670 acres in 2007.

As many as 71.908 acres were brought under cotton cultivation in the marginal areas of nine districts-Kasur, Sargodha, Mianwali, Bhakkar, Mandi Bahauddin, Khushab, Chakwal, Jhelum and Nankana Sahib showing an increase of 9.76 percent in cotton sowing than the corresponding period of 2007.

This year, cotton sowing is declining due to shortage of irrigation water, poor quality of sowing seed, abnormally high prices of inputs specially fertilizer and pesticides, switch over of cotton area to competitive crops of rice, cane and chilies and delay in sowing, the spokesman said.

Regarding size of next cotton crop, ideas differ widely, independent estimates put the crop size between 11.5-12.0 million local weight bales but conservative estimates restrict it around 10 million bales. Against our domestic consumption around 15.5 million local weight bales, our production falls short by some 4.6 - 5.0 million bales which would be met through import of cotton.

Recent heavy rains in Rahimyar Khan district reportedly damaged the newly sown cotton and necessitated re-sowing. Weather is reported partly cloudy in most of the cotton areas in Sindh and Punjab and rains are anticipated soon. In some cotton areas, blowing of gusts has caused some damage to saplings. This time, only a very conducive weather and proportionate rains can produce a good crop on the face of shortage of irrigation water and use of poor quality sowing seed. Reports of attack of Mealy Bug from fields in Lower Sindh have been heard. Also in Tob Tek Singh area survey is being conducted on reports of possible attack of Mealy bug, the spokesman added.

Sources in the Food and Agriculture Ministry told PAGE that the government will formally introduce Bt. cotton in the country next year.

They said that Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) would provide seeds of different crops next year while the shortage of certified seeds would be resolved to a large extent. The government had slashed duties on agriculture equipment, the sources add.