LAHORE: The outlook for the upcoming cotton crop season appears bleak due to unfavourable weather conditions, insufficient irrigation water, and the government’s tepid response to resolve the growers’ issues.

Sindh benefited from early cotton sowing last season (2023-24) as the crop matured before the heat stress of May and June; the first picking had also been done in many areas. The province tried to repeat the experience this year, too, but heavy rains spoiled the sown lands, and in many cotton areas, the crop is being re-cultivated.

Observing over 100 per cent higher production in Sindh due to early sowing last year, the Punjab agriculture authorities decided to adopt a similar strategy this season. They claimed over one million acres had been brought under early cotton cultivation. However, they have reduced the overall lint acreage from 5.2m acres last year to 4m this year.

Growers will face a new challenge of around 30pc irrigation water shortages for kharif crops. Furthermore, the Federal Committee on Agriculture has yet to convene to set acreage and production targets for the kharif crops, a meeting usually held in the first fortnight of March.

“Surprisingly, the federal government has not yet set any national production and cultivation targets for cotton after many decades. Nor has it announced the intervention price of the crop,” remarks Cotton Ginners Forum chairman Ihsanul Haq.

He says Sindh has urged federal authorities to set the intervention price at Rs10,000 per maund, although growers could not secure Rs8,500 per maund rate last season.

Sindh Abadgar Board president Mahmood Nawaz Shah argues that growers abandon cotton not solely due to water shortage, as some suggest, but because the crop is no longer profitable.

He contends that if water shortages were the primary reason, the farming community would not have switched to water-intensive sugarcane and rice crops.

Meanwhile, the local cotton market experienced a downturn with reduced volume and declining prices following the extended Eidul Fitr holidays.

Karachi Cotton Brokers Association chairman Naseem Usman attributes the downturn to decreases in international rates, prompting the local textile industry to turn to lint imports.

Published in Dawn, April 23nd, 2024

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