ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Special Committee on Agricultural Products on Wednesday decided to move a resolution to abolish the withdrawal of import duty to discourage import of cotton.
Speaker NA Asad Qaiser remarked that cotton was the country’s strategic crop and boosting productivity and export competitiveness was central to the revival of the sector. He underlined the need take all stakeholders on board in order to uplift the country’s cotton sector and instructed the members to convene a meeting with the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association as well.
He said the small-scale and poor farmers have complained that policy makers remain inaccessible to them and directed the committee to visit the farmers rather than calling few selected people to the highest forums.
He asked the members to set aside political considerations and adopt a cross-partisan collaborative mechanism to turn around the country’s agriculture sector.
The committee was also informed that cotton exports as well as imports have significantly declined in the last nine months. It was highlighted that the country’s cotton continues to lose export competitiveness and cede space to the regional competitors. The members remarked that middlemen extract maximum profitability on the basis of their lobbying and bargaining power while farmers continue to be exploited.
The committee maintained that higher cost of production, price differential vis-à-vis international prices and lack of value addition has diminished Pakistan’s competitive advantage in the international markets.
It was pointed out that due to these reasons area under cultivation for cotton has ceded considerable space to other crops. It was also highlighted by the committee that cotton prices offered to famers are also unfavourable compared to the international trends as they receive considerably lower prices than their counterparts in neighbouring countries.
The members were informed that the decision to provide a short window for import of cotton — based on the limited needs of the local industry — resulted in massive inflows and dumping.
The committee unanimously approved the terms of reference of the Special Committee on Agricultural Products which outlines an ambitious undertaking to turn around the agriculture sector.
Qaiser urged the Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research to compensate farmers for their losses incurred in the aftermath of the recent spell of rain and hailstorm. He also advised Sahibzada Sultan to personally visit the affected region and estimate losses borne by the farmers.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019