June 1 - 7, 2009

Cotton is one of the most important fiber and cash crops of Pakistan. The country has maximum cotton area in Punjab followed by Sindh and negligible in NWFP. This crop accounts for more than 65% of nation export earnings as raw cotton, cotton yarn, cotton waste, cotton thread, cotton cloth and ready made garments and many other finished products. It accounts for 12% of value-added in agriculture and 3.0% for Gross domestic product.

The cotton crop provides raw material to local domestic cotton industry comprising 510 textile mills, 1245 ginning factories and 8.1 million spindles and over 5000 oil expelling units. It has over 55% share in total vegetable oil produced in the country. Cotton is grown extensively over 50 countries of the world.

. In Pakistan, cotton, which is known as the silver fiber, is the second most important cash crop, in terms of area and value-added earning after wheat. It is cultivated over about 12% of the total cultivated area in the country. The domestic textile industry has grown phenomenally during the past several years, making Pakistan as the largest exporter of cotton yarn in the world and a prominent exporter of cotton fabrics, garments and textile made-ups. Pakistan is a leading exporter of good quality cotton catering to the global requirements of the textile industries and providing more than 45000 tons of oil to the industry. More than 35% of the total production is shipped abroad annually to earn foreign exchange.

The area of cotton has been static for the last ten years however, the yield has been improved. The cotton area in the country is almost 3.20 million hectares and production 11.27 million bales, with a yield of 790 kg per hectare during 2007-2008. About 80% of the national production is in Punjab and the rest is produced in other provinces. The yield per hectare of seed cotton in Punjab is more to that of Sindh province. The standing committee on cotton crop assessment has announced to fix target of 12.27 million bales (one bale = 172 kg) of cotton production for the year 2007-2008 in the country. The province-wise estimate has been fixed as in: Punjab 10.15 million bales), Sindh (2.52 million bales), Balochistan (0.94 million bales) and NWFP (0.052 million bales). Important varieties normally grown in the country are as Chandi-95, Sohni, Krishma, CRIS-134, CRIS-9, CIM-443, C1M-473, CIM-482, FH-900, FII-901, RII-500, NIAB-78, FH-901 etc. Pakistan is far behind producing cotton on unit area basis as compared with the advanced cotton growing countries of the world like USA, India, China, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico, Iran, Australia, Brazil, Russia and Syria.

Over the last several years, raw cotton and its textile products have contributed on an average about 65% of the total annual national exports besides providing employment to a sizeable manpower of the country. It also yields 3.5 to 4.0 million tons of cotton seeds, which contributes over 68% of the total domestic edible oil production. Seed cotton as produced by the farmers is ginned to give lint and cotton seed. The latter is used as a feed to the livestock or crushed to obtain oil and oil cakes.

Cotton seed oil is mixed with soybean or sunflower oils by the mills to manufacture edible oils. Cotton seed is used extensively in milk production. In addition over two million tons of cotton oil cake is also obtained which is used as livestock feed. A significant part of cotton seed is also fed to the lactating animals for milk production. Lint obtained from cotton seed is either exported as such or converted into yarn for export or for domestic use to manufacture cloth and garments to meet domestic demand and for export. Some cotton waste is also exported and also locally used.

Seed cotton brings cash return to the farmers, gives livelihood to the ginneries, provides raw material to the textile industry and in all these operations, is a source of employment both in rural and urban areas. It is a matter of great interest that raw cotton and its products (cotton waste, cotton yarn, thread, ready-made garments etc.) annually contributed, on an average over 51% of the total exports of the country during the last five years. The value of exports of raw cotton has varied from year-to-year depending on the exportable surplus after meeting the domestic demand particularly of the textile industry. Thus, cotton plays a vital role in the economic development of the country in both the majors sectors i.e. agriculture and industry. Punjab and Sindh are the major cotton growing provinces. The respective shares of the two provinces in cotton production are estimated at 81 and 19 %, respectively.

Cotton is a major summer season crop and planted from early April to May in both lower arid upper Sindh and from May 1 to June 10 in the Punjab province. The time of sowing is so adjusted that the young seedlings escape the early summer heat as much as possible. The climate of middle and lower Sindh is milder than that of upper Sindh and the Punjab. It is sown on nearly 2.9 million hectares, contributing 30% to the value-added by major crops. It is grown on 12% of the cropped area, which is higher than any other cash crop. Cotton plant growth follows a specific pattern. Changes in climate, availability of plant nutrients, moisture and pest damage are some of the factors that affects its growth pattern. A good crop stand is important with proper plant spacing. It is grown mostly on the alluvial plains of the Indus basin. Suitable land for cotton is sandy-loam not high in sand or clay content. These soils are deep and have high water holding capacity most of which arc available to the plants during the growing period. Cotton plants need the application of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash for its proper nutrition. Application of 80 kg N, 30 kg P205 and 55 kg K20 per hectare are recommended during growing period.

Normally cotton is planted in summer season after wheat. Therefore, the land should be properly prepared and leveled. Results of recent studies showed that cultivation on bed and furrows produced higher yields. It competes directly with rice in those areas where both crops can be cultivated. Cotton in combination with winter crops also competes indirectly with sugarcane as the latter occupies land resources round the year. The recommended plant population in cotton varies from 20,000 to 25,000 plants per acre depending upon the variety. In too dense stands, root and shoot development is affected. Thinning will ensure proper spacing and plant density so that the optimum number of plants per hectare is present for obtaining the optimum yields.

For proper cotton growth normally five to six irrigations are required. However, at present shortage of irrigation water is major threat to cotton crop. Therefore proper irrigation to the crop must be assured at the proper time with proper care. The adaptation of modern irrigation methods could be beneficial for irrigation as much as possible area. It has been estimated that the last irrigation should be applied at the end of September or in the first week of October. After that, the application of irrigation generally delays crop maturity, enhances risk of pest attack and results in low yield. The average yield at the country level has ranged from 560 to 625 kg/hectare during 1992-93 to 2007-2008. The yield of cotton in the Punjab, which contributes nearly 80% in the total production ranged from 480 to 632 kg/hectare.

The government must announce its policy of fixing prices for all seed and cotton crop well before the start of cotton season to give incentives and assurance to the cotton growers for bumper crop. The government must lined the canals for proper and timely water in the field. In this way cotton crop will not suffer from water logging and salinity. The requirements of cotton industry both domestic and international are becoming highly specialized day by day. The textile machinery is becoming more sophisticated needing lint especially of uniform length, fineness and strength. It is recommended that the quality as well as quantity of cotton make Pakistan able to achieve a respectable position amongst cotton producing countries of the world.