Cotton sowing in doldrums
By Muhammad Ahmad and M Fakharddein Razi
sowing in southern Punjab is facing multiple problems
and is still stuck to around eight per cent mark even in
mid-May. The ideal sowing time, which is May for the
core cotton areas, is running out but the farmers still
no water to plant the crop.
Non-perennial canals mainly feeding the core cotton
areas started running on May 5 instead of April 15,
causing a loss of 20 crucial days. Another reason is the
late harvesting of wheat and bumper sugarcane crop still
occupying the land and preventing farmers from sowing
Due to drought-like situation in absence of monsoon
rains and shortage of water in irrigation canals last
year, agricultural produce had suffered badly in Sindh.
An acute water shortage has hit cotton sowing on 200,000
acres with Nawabshah growers facing heavy financial
losses. Dadu and Nusrat irrigation divisions are in
water rotation schedules for last couple of months.
Water still had not arrived in the entire area and
canals were running at much lower than the required
The other option was of tube-wells, but the rural areas
were having a 10-hour daily load shedding on an average
that made it impossible for them to pump water. Growers
of four talukas from district Sanghar (Sindh) are facing
the onslaught as standing sugarcane, banana, and
vegetable crops are not being supplied with water.
Growers have held several demonstrations demanding
irrigation minister and concerned officials to ensure
regular water supply, but in vain.
The Meteorological Department has warned of a possible
drought in the country with no signs of any significant
rainfall over the next two months and water levels in
Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs dropping to critical
levels. The drought, feared to hit Sindh and Balochistan
first, will have a serious impact on efforts to achieve
this yearís cotton sowing target and affect livestock,
horticulture and human lives throughout the country.
Reports coming from major cotton-growing areas of
Southern Punjab indicate that sowing is well in progress
and in some areas it has been completed with the help of
tube-wells, despite shortage of irrigation water in the
canal system. The government has been urged to encourage
ridge sowing in cotton areas to combat water crisis
looming large for the coming kharif season.
The government should also allow cultivation of BT
cotton so that the production could be increased and per
acre yield could be maximised. In addition to this, less
expenditure on pesticide would definitely reduce the
cost of production. Because of late announcement of the
procurement price mostly at the time of harvesting,
farmers are confused and are unable to decide which crop
to grow (cotton or rice). Drought has compelled them to
abandon rice, despite high prices of the crop.
The government should not repeat the mistake of
announcing procurement price of crops late like that of
wheat, which created a crisis. Pakistan is the only
country which charges sales tax on fertiliser and
pesticides. It should be removed in the interest of
farmers. Recently, cotton price have been increased by
Rs50 per maund, but farmers are not sure whether they
would get this benefit.
During the last many years, area under cotton
cultivation has been on increase. In the fiscal 2005-06,
cotton was grown over 7.65 million acres compared to
7.25 million acres in 2002-03. But the desired target of
cotton production remained an elusive dream.
There has been a reduction of 13 per cent in cotton
production according to Economic Survey 2005-06. Cotton
crop harvest for 2005-06 was 12.4 million bales as
against 14.3 million bales last year. Whereas the area
under cotton crop since last two decades has been on an
average between 7.12 and 7.42 millions acres. Because of
low cotton production, 1.5-2 million bales were imported
annually to meet the expanding demand of local textile
The country has also been losing some 10-15 per cent of
value of its cotton due to poor quality. Improper
picking, adulteration of cotton, missed grades and seed
varieties and improper packing, storage and means of
transportation are responsible for the poor quality of
the fibre. And the loss due to these factors amounts to
$350 million per annum.
In this context, it is essential to ponder over the
means and ways to improve cotton production. Stringent
efforts are needed in many areas to increase itís per
acre yield not only to meet the domestic requirements
but also fulfill the export demand.
Increase in cotton production could be achieved either
by enhancing area under cotton crop or increasing per
acre lint yield or both. There is also a need for making
constant research for evolving better-yield varieties by
adopting modern techniques. The option of increasing
area under cultivation cannot be exercised because of
lack of irrigation water and the two major cotton
growing provinces, Punjab and Sindh, are already at
their maximum level.
Cotton faces competition from other crops as well which
is also a constraint in bringing more area under this
crop. However, there is a possibility of more areas
under cotton cultivation in various districts of
Balochistan like Sibi, Nasirabad and Kalat divisions and
in NWFP like D. I. Khan. However, the main obstacle is
the shortage of water beside lack of agro-infrastructure
and law and order in these areas.
The only option left to increase per acre yield is by
applying modern technology. Presently, cotton crop is
facing a number of constraints, including low per acre
yield: high price of agriculture inputs (seeds,
fertilisers, pesticides etc); higher intensity of
insects and pests attack; shortage of good quality,
high-yielding and insect pest-resistant seed varieties;
deficiency of irrigation water; lack of advance
technologies; lack of awareness and agro-professionalism
and adulterations in pesticides, fertilisers and seeds.
Above all, natural factors like unexpected rain,
drought, and floods especially in southern Punjab and
Sindh are obstacles to better yield. The yield also
remains low as unfavorable weather conditions at the
time of sowing affect germination, increase incidence of
pest attack in the growth of the crop as well as at the
time of flowering and boll formation, decrease in the
number of bolls and weight and higher weed intensity.
Courtesy: The DAWN