LAHORE: The Cotton Crop Assessment Committee (CCAC) on Tuesday reignited controversy on cotton production in the country when it put its estimation at 9.1 million bales – a figure that flies in the face of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association estimates.

The PCGA – the first consumer and receiver of crop in its processing chain – had put the figure at 7.16 million bales in its Dec 3 report, leaving a gap of whopping two million bales in national production figures.

As per the CCAC estimates, Punjab produced 5.16 million bales, Balochistan 0.43 million bales, Sindh 3.5 million bales and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 40,000 bales, taking total figure at 9.1 million bales.

Interestingly, Punjab also reported achieving 100 per cent target of wheat sowing, which means that entire cotton crop is now harvested and should be in the ginning factories for processing. If 9.1 million bales have left the field and only 7.1 million had reached ginning factories, where have two million bales gone? The debate is raging in Punjab.

Some insiders say that the CCAC, during the Tuesday meeting, was advised not to commit any figure because of massive gap between the official and business figures. Ignoring the counsel, the CCAC, however, decided to go public with figures and added few more decibels to the debate. During the meeting, growers’ representatives also questioned Punjab figure of 5.16 million bales.

A senior official of the Punjab agriculture department, requesting anonymity, did concede that the provincial figures might have been on the higher side. However, he did insist that it may not be as low as being put by the PCGA, which says that Punjab is stuck at 3.6 million bales. The provincial agriculture management thinks since 17 per cent general sales tax has been slapped on cotton seed sale, the ginners, some of whom also own textile mills, have interest in depressing arrival data and save taxes.

Former chairman of the PCGA, Aman Ullah, however, defends his organisation’s figures. Explaining dichotomy between both figures, he says that the Crop Reporting Wing of the Punjab bases its estimations on acreage and production sampling. “Say, if a 100-acre plot is sown in Rahim Yar Khan but yield travels to some mills in Sindh, the Punjab would naturally multiply those acres with its estimated average yield and include in its tally. The PCGA, however, does not do it. It only takes those bales in its record, which have crossed factory gates – regardless of origin of crop.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2021

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