LAHORE: Identifying uncertain market, poor profit margin, an unregulated seed regime, insignificant research, and lack of mechanisation and extension services as the issues plaguing the all-important cotton crop, a farmers’ body suggests the government revive the sector and its allied textile industry for the sake of the country.

The Pakistan Kissan Ittehad, a body representing small farmers, has called for giving attention to a crop as per its contribution to the economy and the crops that are a burden on the economy or natural resources must be kept at bay and produced just to meet the domestic requirements as a policy.

The indigenous crop the country needed the most must be protected from massive import, ensured profitability and a value chain or good marketing practices, says a PKI report, urging the authorities to look at success stories in the regions for the purpose.

Pakistan may produce cotton, a basic raw material for the largest industrial sector of textile and the largest export earnings, up to 15-18 million bales from the existing resources (water and soil), it claims but regrets that the area under its cultivation has dropped to two million hectares from 3.2m with the total output shrinking from 14m bales to 7m bales, while the demand of the local textile industry has risen to 15-16m bales and the gap is being fulfilled by import.

It regrets that the textile industry does not pay a fair price to local growers pleading higher prices will make its products un-competitive in the international market but pays even higher rates for imported cotton. He demands imposition of duties on imported lint to bring it at parity with the local cotton prices.

Neither public nor private funds are being allocated for research as the textile industry owes Rs3.2 billion as cess to the cotton research institute, whose staff has not been paid salaries and pensions for the last six months, and research projects have come to a halt, the PKI discloses.

The productivity gap between progressive and non-progressive growers is huge as the former gets 40 maunds per acre and the latter 12 maunds in the same village with the same nature of soil because of no access to technology and liquidity, substandard inputs and limited advisory services, it adds.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2023

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