LAHORE: Pakistan’s cotton output is feared to fall short of around two million bales this year against an annual target of 14 million bales as water shortage, late sowing and inept management are virtually nipping the country’s cash crop in the bud, said agriculture experts.
The experts said around one third of the new crop was planted after a lapse of the optimum sowing time. The half-baked cotton management plan and lingering water shortage have adversely affected cotton sowing pattern, sparking a fear of low production of silver fibre, they added.
The annual target for cotton output was set at 14.04 million bales (of 170-kilogramme each). “Even after achieving target of per acre yield, which is again questionable due to late sowing, the national crop size could maximum be around 12 million bales,” said an expert. Production could adversely be affected in the major producing belt. Even the target of cotton sowing is likely to fall short of targeted area in both Punjab and Sindh.
Cotton could only be planted on less than 65 percent of the targeted area till May 20, which is considered as the optimum time of sowing for getting maximum production. Officials said cotton sowing should ideally be completed by mid-May to the third week in most parts of Sindh and Punjab. Only some varieties are allowed to sow in core zone of Punjab by May 31, they said.
“Late sowing always attract problems associated with harsh weather and disease onslaught, causing a dent in the per acre yield,” said an expert. Official estimates said cotton output is still around 10 percent short of target of 3.11 million hectares by May-end. In Sindh, cotton sowing is around 25 percent short of the target.
The United States Department of Agriculture forecast Pakistan’s cotton output for 2017/18 at around 11 million bales (of 170kg each), based on an assumption of a modest expansion in area as compared to the previous year.
Ihsanul Haq, chairman of the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Forum said cotton plantation is affected in Rahim Yar Khan district. “Farmers in several districts opted to rather sow maize, sunflower, potato and sugarcane,” Haq said.
Zafar Yab Haider, director general of Punjab agriculture extension department admitted that there is a possibility of not achieving the cotton sowing target this year due to water shortage.
The decision of the Punjab government to ban cotton sowing before 15 April also caused low crop plantation. The order was issued as a precautionary measure to save the cotton crop from pink bollworm.
Mia Asim, a farmer from Vehari district, clinched a stay order from a court against the ban and went ahead with the plantation in March instead. “My early sown cotton is blossoming well, while farmers who followed recommendation of the agriculture department had to fight with pest,” Asim told this scribe.
He said cotton production target may be hit this year. “Farmers could not plant cotton as per the official target in several districts of South Punjab.” Zafar Hayat, a well-known cotton grower from Multan said the agriculture department’s drive usually has no impact on farmers.
“Growers this year have to some extent again decided to sow cotton, but it is purely due to a fact that they are not getting much money by producing other crops,” Hayat said. “Farmers feel that they can get better price of cotton crop this year and that is why they are opted to cultivate cotton in southern districts of Punjab.”