Sindh expects cotton crop close to 3.5 million bales, lower than the targeted four million bales for 2012-13.
Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association’s (PCGA) figures indicate an output up to 3.5 million bales. Sindh agriculture department has reported 16 per cent damages to crop because of rains. The province couldn’t achieve sowing target of 650,000 hectares and an area of 584,000 hectares was brought under cultivation.
Farmers and researchers point out multiple factors that affected average per acre yield and decline in sowing area of the crop. Changing weather cycle is an important factor which has hit Kharif crops. Bloated monsoon rains damaged the crop.
According to Director General Research Dr Atta Soomro, in the current year and in 2011, rains continued till September with severe intensity. It was time when cotton starts attaining maturity and its boll starts to open up. Once the crop is affected by rains, it needs a 50-day cycle for flowering and fruiting. BT cotton enjoys immunity against bollworm but it is susceptible to sucking complex syndrome.
This year Mealybug, white fly, thrips and jassid attacked the crop though on a small scale. Soomro advised farmers to sow cotton in April so that they complete required maturity cycle early.
“Apart from BT cotton, farmers are required to grow ‘Sindh1’ variety which has good potential, otherwise, we will be compromising our cotton economy”, says Soomro. He emphasised that if farmers are cultivating cotton on 100 acres, they must sow local variety on 40 acres to keep their farming economy going; otherwise they will be at the losing end. He says BT cotton has not been owned by Sindh government officially.
This year per acre yield has dropped and farmers believe the decline should be analysed and if researchers come up with some scientific reasons, the trend can be arrested. On the basis of their experience of BT cotton’s cultivation, farmers claim that it has good characteristics but researchers need to develop its seed and introduce new varieties.
Nawaz Shah, a progressive cotton producer attributed back-to-back disaster as one of the main reasons for drop in cotton acreage. Growers were afraid of sowing cotton in command area of Kotri barrage because of natural disaster factor. Secondly, water availability has become a perennial problem in this barrage’s command which delays period of crop maturity and, by that time, monsoon season sets in.
Many growers complained of drop in per acre yield. For instance, Abdul Majeed Nizamani, a veteran and progressive farmer, got 28 maunds per acre out of his 12 acres in Badin against 56 maunds in 2010.
To him, it was mind-boggling because his crop was not under pest attack and was in good health. Likewise, Nadeem Shah got 14 maunds per acre in Matiari district and 12 maunds in Mirpurkhas district where the output otherwise varies between 25 to 35 maunds per acre. They link the output to seed’s quality. The prices varied between Rs1900 to Rs2300 per 40kg though initially farmers got Rs2600 as well.
“Government needs to effectively regulate the seed sector. We don’t have certified seed while none of the BT cotton variety is owned by government though Punjab government has some approved varieties. The ‘gene’ of BT cotton should be analysed if we have to ensure sustainability in its production”, he says. There are reports that BT cotton was grown in rice belt where it gave yield as high as 80 to 90 maunds per acre in the past. Historically, according to Nizamani, cotton is grown in command area of four canals on the left of Sukkur barrage where water is available on time.
Until Nov 15, PCGA got confirmation for arrival of 2.796 million bales’ in ginning factories against last year’s 1.889 million bales. The ginners association chairman believes that another 0.7 million bales is expected to arrive from Sindh crop as per revise estimates.
PCGA says that cotton growers are not getting support price for their crop whereas India has increased support price by 18 per cent despite significantly lower prices of inputs there as compared to Pakistan.
“We had produced 12.7 million bales against India’s 13 million bales in 1991. But now India is the second largest cotton producer with 32 million bales. We are still having more or less same level of production. Indian government is active purchasing cotton from farmers after seeing prices go below the support price”, he says.