MULTAN                   -               Low profitability in cotton is a major cause of decline in cultivation area of the crop in the country.

Cotton Commissioner, Ministry of National Food Security and Research Dr Khalid Abdullah talking to APP said that there were multiple reasons for decline in total cultivation area of cotton. Ten years ago, the cotton crop was cultivated at an area of 3.2 million hectares in the country, which declined to 2.5 million acres, he informed. The main reason in decline is decrease in profitability. Farmers shifted their focus on other corps including maize, rice and sugarcane.

Responding to a question about total requirement of cotton for local textile industry, he informed that country’s textile sector demand was 14 million bales. He, however, hoped that they would produce nearly 9.45 million bales. Dr Khalid Abdullah stated that cotton was an important crop and it had huge share in the country’s exports volume. Its share in total exports is nearly 64 percents.

About government steps, he said the incumbent government was taking all possible measures to improve cotton production. He informed that work under PM Emergency Fund for Agriculture was also being done to promote the sector. The government is also trying its best level to ensure more profitability in cotton so that farmers could pay more focus on the cash crop.

The government is offering financial assistance to farmers and also providing inputs on lowest possible prices to farmers, he added. About support price for cotton, the cotton commissioner observed that they were trying to ensure support price for cotton so that farmers should pay more focus on the crop.

The support price would also help improve confidence of farmers, he stated. He also claimed that they would surely improve cotton production area in next three years.

About impacts of climate changes on cotton crop, Dr Khalid Abdullah informed that climate resistance varieties of cotton were being developed in different research institutes. Some time, climate changes cause losses and sometimes, it helps in getting more production.

However, in previous years, the cotton crop suffered due to climate changes. Dr Khalid stated that the country was facing loss of two million bales due to adverse effects of climate changes.

Responding to a question about soil fertility, he informed that there was multiple cropping which also damaged soil fertility.

The farmers should take care of soil fertility and they should apply organic fertilizers to maintain health of the soil.

When question about coordination between federal and provinces on cotton enhancement, he informed that they conduct joint trainings and research programmes.

Dr Khalid Abdullah informed that they were working in KP and Balochistan to enhance cotton cultivation area.

Both the provinces have potential of one million acres. He however claimed that they would achieve half of the set target of five lakh acres within one year. Different incentives are being offered to farmers of KP and Balochistan to get their attention on cultivation of cotton corp.

Substandard and illegal seed was also a big hurdle in achieving cotton production targets. The government is taking strict action against the persons involved in sale of substandard and illegal seeds.

To another question how the country can enhance cotton area as well as production within short period of time, he informed that Hedge Trading was of vital importance. “We are going to introduce it in near future to get more production”. He clarified that Hedge trading was an agreement on price between buyer and seller, before arrival of the crop. The price of cotton is acceptable to both, buyer and seller.

The buyer will pick cotton against the recommended prices. This sort of trade boost morale of farmers as they already knew about the price of their crop so they would strive hard for maximum production of cotton. Dr Khalid Abdullah further remarked that Hedge Trading was popular in many countries. However, it is being introduced in the country. The Hedge Trading is done through Pakistan Mercantile Exchange Department.

About low returns due to contamination, Dr Khalid Abdullah informed that hand-picked cotton was very expensive across the world.

He lamented that Pakistan was getting low prices due to contamination in cotton. The international ratio of contamination was about 2 percent while there was 6 percent contamination in country cotton. The government is struggling hard to create awareness on neat and clean picking of cotton. The cotton could fetch more returns in case it is neat and clean. The quality of Pakistani cotton was very good but contamination issue damages its quality. The Cotton Commissioner hoped that Pakistan’s cotton sector would surely improve in coming years as sincere efforts were being made to offer reasonable profitability to farmers.