LAHORE: Farmers and labour organisations have called for promoting small cotton growers and improving labour conditions for cotton pickers to avert the severe cotton crisis in the country.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, Labour Education Foundation and Crofter Foundation said that despite being the fifth largest cotton producer in the world with the third-largest cotton spinning capacity in Asia, Pakistan could not maintain white lint production level due to alleged government negligence, agriculture department’s wrong policies and no impressive cotton research.

The statement says cotton production is almost half of what the country harvested in the year 2010 and one-third of the textile industry’s requirement.

They feared that cotton output would fall further in the future due to poor funding for the Central Cotton Research Institute, Multan, as well as changing climate patterns, pest attacks and poor quality seeds, while there seemed no effective effort to avoid check farm input costs. All these factors have left little appeal for growers.

They claimed that several research studies found small farmers to be the most vulnerable group with low returns on investments and lower technical and economic efficiency scores. Financial constraints, difficulty to access agriculture credit and extension services, and lack of formal education are other factors affecting farmers’ efficiency, while cotton-picking has become a challenging task for them, they added.

Women farm workers were reluctant to work under difficult conditions with pesticide exposure and low wages, they said. They demand the government regulate farm input prices, provide formal training to small farmers to adopt better farm management practices.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2021

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