ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s economy will suffer a huge setback as the production of important crops fell short of targets for the current fiscal year, raising fears for food security.
Lower crop yield is mainly due to a decline in sowing area and climatic changes.
The estimates were framed by the National Accounts Committee on the basis of provincial crop estimates to review the gross domestic product for the year 2019-20. The figures were revised from earlier estimates showing some positive growth.
Cotton production fell by 6.9 per cent to 9.178 million bales for 2019-20 against 9.86m bales over the corresponding year. The target had earlier been revised down to 12.72m bales from 15m.
For a number of years, cotton was considered the life-line of Pakistan’s economy but the crop is now facing tough competition from sugarcane and international prices.
As per the statistics, cotton was sown on 2.526m hectares compared to 2.372m hectares last year, showing an increase of 6.46pc. The proposed target was 2.785m hectares, which were missed by over 9pc. The growth in the sowing area was mainly contributed by 33.58pc from Sindh, 33.96pc Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 3.15pc in Balochistan and 0.09pc Punjab.
At the moment, 70pc of cotton crop originates from Punjab followed by 29pc from Sindh with KP and Balochistan contributing less than 1pc each. A sharp decline in cotton yield and cultivation was seen in Punjab during the last decade as sugarcane has replaced cotton as the cotton-growing built.
A senior food ministry official also pointed out other issues including seed quality, absence of new seed technology, heatwaves and climate change, cotton leaf curl virus, pink bollworm and whitefly which have an impact of low cotton yield.
According to data, Punjab has sown cotton over 1.889m hectares and produced 6.336m cotton bales, Sindh 0.598m hectares, producing 2.749m cotton bales, Balochistan 0.038m hectares, producing 0.098m bales and KP has sown cotton on 0.0002m acres and producing 0.0987m bales.
KP and Balochistan have great potential to expand and increase value-added cotton production, the official added. Cotton crop has a share of 0.8pc in GDP and contributes 4.5pc in agriculture value addition.
Cotton being an export-oriented raw material of over 450 textile industries, maintaining competitive prices with the international market and ensuring due profitability of growers has been a great challenge for policymakers and industries over the decade.
On the other hand, sugarcane production fell by 0.4pc to 66.880m tonnes in 2019-20 from 67.173m tonnes over the corresponding year. As per estimates, sugarcane accounts for 2.9pc in agriculture value addition and 0.5pc in overall GDP.
Sugarcane is cultivated at an area of 1.03m hectares in 2019-20 compared to 1.101m hectares, showing a decline of 5.6pc. The reasons listed for the decline include an increase in area and production of rice and maize.
In addition, the rice crop was cultivated on an area of 3.033m hectares in 2019-20 compared to 2.810m hectares last year, showing an increase of 8pc. As a result of an increase in cultivation area, rice output grew 2.9pc to 7.410m tonnes in 2019-20 compared to 7.210m tonnes last year.
The official added that the rice output would be much higher but high temperature at the time of fertility damaged production. “We were expecting higher rice yields this year”, the official explained.
At the same time, maize cultivation area grew 2.9pc to 1.413m hectares in 2019-20 compared to 1.373m hectares last year. The yield of maize crop witnessed a growth of 6pc to 7.236m tonnes in 2019-20. Wheat yield has posted a paltry growth of 2.5pc to 24.946m tonnes in 2019-20 over the 24.348m tonnes last year. The wheat is cultivated at an area of 8.824m hectares in 2019-20.
In Sindh, some marginal growth was seen in wheat yield from 3.6m tonnes to 3.8m tonnes during these years. The cultivation area in Punjab remained relatively unchanged at around 6.5m hectares, which is the main producer of wheat.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020