ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday expressed concern over huge decline in cotton crop production this year, which eroded GDP growth rate for the ongoing financial year (2015-16) by 0.5 percent.

Chairing a meeting to review the reasons for shortfall in cotton production and also to devise short and medium term plans for increasing crop production, Dar urged the relevant government organizations to investigate reasons for shortfall in production of cotton and to coordinate efforts for a comprehensive roadmap for achieving higher cotton production in future.

Known international expert Neil Foster made a detailed presentation on the cotton production potential of Pakistan. He was of the view that Pakistan has potential to achieve production level of 20 million bales.

 He highlighted five major irritants in realizing the potential of cotton production in Pakistan. “These include quality of seed, disease, pests, weed and water,” he added. He urged the government to take necessary steps to remove these irritants and put in place regulatory mechanism and legal framework for seed production and dissemination. Increasing yield was key to achieve higher level of production.

Finance minister advised all concerned to ensure implementation and early enactment of Plant Breeders Rights Act and formulate further amendments in Seed Act to encourage the private sector companies.

He also directed Ministry of National Food Security & Research to revitalize the Directorate of Plant Protection to ensure supply of quality pesticides in the cotton growing areas. He also directed Ministry of Climate Change to strengthen the National Bio-safety Committee and its secretariat.

The provincial governments were advised to swiftly implement their plans to constitute Pink Bollworm Strike force well in time to ensure plant protection.

The meeting was attended by secretaries of Ministries of Finance, Climate Change, Textile Industry, Commerce, Industries & Production, National Food Security and Research. The high officials of agriculture departments, Government of Punjab and Sindh, and experts from private sectors also participated in the meeting.