Punjab plans cotton revival to cut imports

Published May 9, 2023
In the 2022-23 season, Pakistan produced 4,912,069 bales of cotton, the lowest in approximately four decades, compared to 7,441,833 bales in the 2021-22 season.—AFP
In the 2022-23 season, Pakistan produced 4,912,069 bales of cotton, the lowest in approximately four decades, compared to 7,441,833 bales in the 2021-22 season.—AFP

LAHORE: Buoyant by the good wheat harvest, the government has decided to focus on the white lint to revive the most important cash crop of the Kharif season and subsequently the textile industry for reducing its import bill.

The Punjab government has decided to provide irrigation water to cotton fields as a priority for achieving the over 8.2 million bales production target this season.

Agriculture Secretary Iftikhar Ali Sahoo met Irrigation Secretary Wasif Khurshid in the latter’s office on Monday to discuss a plan for ensuring water supplies in the canals of south Punjab during the ongoing cotton cultivation.

Director-General Agriculture (Extension) Dr Muhammad Anjum Ali, Chief Engineer Habibullah Bodla and Deputy Director Muhammad Adeel were also present.

Mr Khurshid said that the irrigation department is providing south Punjab more water than its share on a priority basis so that cotton may be sown in the maximum area.

He said that the Punjab irrigation department is facing a total shortage of over 27 per cent in the system this year but the south Punjab canals are being supplied 53,000 cusecs of water against its share of 45,000 cusecs.

Mr Sahoo said that cotton is being cultivated on an area of 4.554 million acres in south Punjab which is 91pc of the total target for the province.

He said that water supplies are essential to achieve the target of cotton cultivation.

The meeting participants agreed on joint monitoring of the officers of the agriculture and irrigation department regarding the availability of water during the cotton season, immediate reporting of incidents of water theft and action against the perpetrators as per law to ensure uniform and uninterrupted supply of canal water to the farmers in south Punjab.

The provincial government has devised the Cotton Action Plan 2023-24 to what it claims will earn $3bn in foreign exchange. The district administration, agriculture department and other stakeholders are working together on the challenging task of increasing the area under cotton cultivation which has been on the decline for the last many years because of repeated failures of the crop for various reasons.

Mr Sahoo has directed the extension and pest warning wings’ field staff to provide technical guidance and support to the farmers and compile the data of all the farmers.

To encourage cotton cultivation, the government has also announced holding a cotton production competition among the farmers in which those harvesting an outstanding crop will be awarded cash prizes worth millions of rupees at provincial and district levels.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2023

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