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Cotton output spikes due to timely rains

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KARACHI:

Pakistan’s cotton production soared 81% to 6.25 million bales in the current season (June-November 2021) in wake of timely rains in the crop fields. The significant increase in output is aiding the textile industry to slash the imports of the input to meet the local demand and saving precious foreign exchange.

The country produced 3.45 million bales in the same period last year (June-November 2020), Pakistan Cotton Ginners’ Association (PCGA) reported on Wednesday.

The association reports average weight of one bale at 155kg.

“Timely rains in September helped lift cotton output this year,” PCGA former chairman Jassu Mal Leemani said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

“Last year, untimely rains in August had damaged almost 2 million bales alone in Sindh,” he said. “Accordingly, the country ended up reporting total cotton production at multi decade low level of 5.64 million bales in the previous season 2020-21.”

The cotton production of the country hit historical high at around 14 million bales in 2014-15. Since then, the output was on a decline mainly due to unavailability of quality seeds.

The historic low production in previous fiscal year encouraged the textile industry (yarn manufacturers) to import 857,373 tons of cotton yarn worth $1.48 billion, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

Pakistan’s total consumption of cotton amounted to over 16 million bales per annum from 2015 to 2019. The demand dropped to 14.7 million bales in the previous year (2019-20) amid Covid-19 pandemic

Textile industry remains the single largest exporting segment of the country as its share in total export earnings stands at 60%.

“We expect a cumulative production of 7-7.2 million bales in current season 2021-22 and around 10 million bales in 2022-23,” Leemani said.

PCGA former chairman highlighted that farmers will be encouraged to grow cotton at a larger area next year after they manage to get a better price in the ongoing year.

“Farmers are receiving Rs6,000 for 40kg of phutti (cotton flower) in the ongoing season compared to Rs3,000 per 40kg last year.”

The cotton price is hovering near record high at Rs17,000 per 40kg these days against Rs11,000 per 40kg around a year ago, it was learnt.

Farmers, mostly in Punjab, chose to sow rice, maize and sugarcane instead of cotton over the past few years because they failed to get a good price for phutti. They sowed cotton seeds on nearly 3 million acres of land in Punjab this year compared to 6 million acres a few years back. “Punjab produced 12 million bales in 2014-15 compared to an estimated 3 million bales in the current year 2021-22,” he said.

Farmers in Sindh sowed cotton seeds at 1.3 million acres of land this year against 1.5-1.6 million acres in the past.

He said that the price of cotton had also doubled to $1.2 per pound in the international market compared to $0.6 last year.

The official highlighted that farmers preferred to sow the crops which were sold at better prices. The government should devise a cotton policy to support the textile industry which earns 60% of the total export earnings every year.

He said that mismanagement of water creates low supply of the essential commodity which gives a tough time to the farmers.

“The government should frame a policy to support cotton farming,” he said. “This will reduce cotton imports, save foreign exchange and increase textiles export which is the need of the moment.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2021.

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