Source: State Bank of Pakistan

KARACHI: The country’s cotton production fell by 34.35 per cent to 5.571 million bales up to Jan 31 against 8.487m bales produced in the same period of last year, the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) said in its fortnightly report released on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, commenting on the shortfall of 2.9 million bales and the dire situation, textile industry representatives said poor productivity could erode viability of the export-oriented textile sector, which has 55 to 60pc contribution in overall exports of the country.

“This is the lowest cotton production in 30 years which is alarming for the textile sector as well as for exports,” said cotton expert and Chair­man of the Cotton Brokers Forum Nasim Usman.

Both Punjab and Sindh reported a significant fall in cotton production.

Cotton production in Punjab till the end of January was 3.436m bales compared to 5.014m bales produced in the same period of last year — a fall of 31.5pc. However, production in Sindh fell by 38.5pc to 2.134m bales from 3.472m noted in the same period of last year.

Though textile exports went up by 7.8pc to fetch $7.442 billion during the first six months of the current fiscal, industry had to import cotton worth $321m in the first five months of the current financial year.

Mr Usman said a roundtable conference of stakeholders was organised in Isla­ma­bad on Wednesday to find out the reasons for the steep fall of cotton production and resolution of problems.

The growers are facing seed problems while the area of cultivation has also dropped. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported recently that the area dedicated to the crop recorded at 2.2m hectares, the lowest since FY82. The SBP also declared that the cotton crop has lost its competitiveness relative to other major crops, in particular sugarcane.

“The shortage of cotton has increased the cost of production as textile millers have to import costlier cotton,” said Asif Inam, zonal head of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma).

“Imported cotton is 15pc costlier than the local cotton but we are trying to adjust this additional cost and increase exports,” the Aptma representative said.

Cotton production fell for the third consecutive year as area under production declined while yields failed to reach targeted levels.

The pricing dynamics have tended to give sugarcane an edge over cotton, which has manifested in the switching of area away from the crop in favor of sugarcane.

Cotton experts said the main problem was the seed which is 10 years old. The growers require new seeds either by imports or through production in the country. The yield of the old seeds is declining each year.

“It takes at least three years to produce new seeds,” said Mr Usman. The cotton and textile industry feel that seed germination will be a major problem to maintain plant population as field tests show the range of 40-60pc germination against the normal requirement of more than 80pc.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2021

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