KARACHI: The falling cotton production is expected to further burden foreign exchange reserves as the country will have to import around six million bales at an estimated $1.5 billion to plug the shortfall.

The data released by the ginners’ body on Tuesday gave gloomy picture of the cotton economy as production continued to shrink for the last five years with current season shortfall touching a new peak at 1.919m bales up to Dec 1.

The government had set the crop’s target at 15m bales for 2019-20 season but so far the production has been highly disappointing as it stood lower by around 21 per cent at 7.447m bales, versus 9.366m in same period last season – a shortfall of 1.919m bales.

After achieving record production of around 14.98m bales in 2013-14, cotton output has been on the decline and resulting in higher imports of the crop each year, stated trader Abdul Jalil Khan.

Cotton Analyst Naseem Usman said there is an urgent need to evolve a strategy to cope up with the gloomy situation and the government will have to act on emergency basis by taking against stern action against suppliers of substandard seeds, pesticides and other inputs.

He further said that cotton growers have been suffering huge losses over the years because of high input cost with low return and in order to make the crop cultivation attractive, the government will have to give subsidiary to growers.

Mian Mahmood Ahmed, a ginner and cotton grower from Punjab, told Dawn that crop is under severe crisis because in addition to poor seed and pesticide, it was also battered by climate change.

There is an urgent need to work out a strategy for evolving heat and pest resistance seed with high yield and if the government fails to devise a plan before the next season, the country may have to witness even worse scenario.

Punjab suffered the heaviest loss of up to 24.06pc with output of 4.141m bales, compared to 5.453m in corresponding period last year.

Meanwhile, Sindh’s output stood short by 15.52pc at 3.306m bales as against 3.913m produced in same period last season. Balochistan produced 99,345 bales.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2019

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