SINDH has reasonable prospects of producing an output of five million bales of cotton this year going by the seasonal sowing trend in areas commanded by the Kotri Barrage.
However, this will largely depend on favourable weather conditions and regular supply of irrigation water. Cotton production has remained below normal due to floods and heavy rains over the past two years.
According to the statistics released by the agriculture department, Tharparker has achieved 105 per cent the targeted sowing, Umerkot 102 per cent, Tando Mohammad Khan 99 per cent, Matiari 97 per cent, Thatta 95 per cent, Hyderabad 85 per cent, Badin 80 per cent and Jamshoro 79 per cent.
In the cotton belt of upper Sindh, the sowing percentage is not so high except in Benazirabad (Nawabshah) with 95 per cent of the targeted area. Among other areas Khairpur has reported 85 per cent sowing, Naushero Feroz 76 per cent, Sukkar 85 per cent and Ghotki 40 per cent.
Explaining increased sowing in lower Sindh, sources in the agriculture department said in these areas growers start cotton sowing in April/May to avoid water shortage which generally occurs at the end of May-June.
Overall, against a sowing target for the current season at 650,000 hectares cotton plantation has reached 499,331 hectares by June 15, giving a target of 77 per cent. Farm experts believe that the overall sowing rate is satisfactory and the province will regain its production level of five million bales.
According to the available e data, there are some areas which are characterised by zero percentage sowing. These include Jacobabad, Larkana, Qamber and Shahdadkot.
A Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) official commenting said these areas were basically paddy growing and growers do not prefer cotton over rice although both are cash crops. He said the cotton crop is more prone to virus attack and damage caused by natural calamities as compared to rice.
During the last two years paddy crop sustained the brunt of floods and rains and growers were able to save some crop despite all round losses.
Sindh Abadgar Board General Secretary Mahmood Nawaz said since cotton crop required less water, a higher percentage of sowing had been achieved in lower Sindh. The areas around the Kotri Barrage still faced water shortage and fields were getting only one-third of their water requirements, he added.
Nawaz said that water shortage was seriously affecting paddy sowing which generally started with nurseries preparations from May 15. Agriculture officials confirmed that till June 16 there were no reports of paddy sowing in the province. Growers prepare paddy nurseries from May 15 to June 15 which could be extended till July.
Giving reason for delay in paddy sowing, the SAB official said in the past paddy nurseries prepared in May and June were damaged during water scarcity and the growers were compelled to prepare it again when the water situation eased. Now they prefer to grow nurseries by the end of water shortage period (May-June).
Meanwhile, Secretary Agriculture Ejaz Ali Khan said water situation had improved from earlier shortage of 25 per cent to 15 per cent. He is in touch with Secretary Irrigation Babar Effendi to expedite efforts to improve water supply.
The SAB official, however, did not agree that water supply had improved and pointed out that even if availability of water increased in upper catchments areas, the flow would take 20 days to reach the Kotri Barrage areas. It takes further 30 days to reach tail-end areas through distributaries.
He expected that water shortage would continue through June and there were chances of improvement in water availability from July onward.