Cotton, Opinions

Cotton yield far below target feared in country

LAHORE: Anticipating a shortfall of about 25 per cent, the first official estimate has predicted cotton output at 10.847 million bales against the target of 14.37 million bales for 2018-19 season as water shortage and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) hold back overall gains in the area under cultivation.

Cotton production in Punjab is estimated to be 8.077 million bales against the target of 10 million bales. While Sindh’s output is feared to be badly affected mainly due to water shortage and may be just 2.60 million bales against the target of 4.20 million bales. The crop cultivation in Sindh province witnessed decrease of 31 per cent as compared to the corresponding period of last year due to historically low water availability.

In Punjab, there are attacks of whitefly, Jassid, Thrips, Mealy Bug and CLCV in certain districts. Relatively dry weather in cotton growing areas have made conducive environment for infestation of whitefly, which is a vector of cotton leaf curl virus. According to latest report, the incidences of CLCV were reported at 29.28 per cent this year against 21 per cent recorded last year. The assault of whitefly was also on the rise if compared with the trend of last year.

Cotton crop in the Sindh remained under severe water shortage due less river flows and below-normal rainfalls in the crop growing areas of the province. Hot weather at early stage of the crop is likely to have a negative impact on production. At the national level, overall increased sown area in the current season and better cotton prices have failed to incentivise farmers to go for extra care of their crop through greater application of fertiliser and pesticides.

Cotton crop for 2018-19 season has been cultivated over 2.7 million hectares in the country against the target of 2.95 million hectares, showing an increase of about 2.0 percent over the cultivation of previous year. But, water shortage, pest attack and unfavourable weather have hit the crop hard.

An official of Punjab Agriculture Department conceded that cotton production in the province is expected to be around 7.8 to 8.2 million bales this year against the target of 10 million bales. He foresaw per acre yield at around 21 bales. He was of the view that whitefly and CLCV attacks had emerged a biggest threat to standing plants and were seen at greater area than last year, damaging crop in various districts. The attack of Mealy bug is, however, in patches and, thus, not a big threat despite greater incidence if compared with last year.

Water deficiency at plantation and early and stage remained a problem in Punjab province too, he claimed. Rain in the next few weeks especially in September could create problems and lead to greater attack of pests. He asserted that actual situation about crop size would be determined in November.

The low volume of cotton this year has forced textile mills to go for larger quantities of imports. According to a United States Department of Agriculture report, the US exports to Pakistan saw the largest year-over-year increase. The country’s yarn production continues to grow and is expected to expand in 2018-19.

Pakistan’s cotton imports during 2018/19 are forecast at 2.7 million 480 lb. bales. Imports of the US cotton spiked 115 per cent through June of calendar year 2018 for Pakistan, reaching a record $500 million, in large part due to Pakistan restricting imports from India last year.

Munwar Hassan: