A high cost of production, coupled with shortage of input might result in last year’s repeat performance of failing to produce the target amount of cotton.
The government has fixed the cotton production target at 15.1 million bales for the current fiscal year 2014-15, against the revised estimates of 12.3 million bales – which was originally 14.1 million bales – in the previous year.
According to the officials of the Pakistan Agriculture Department, the main reason for switching to different crops is the unavailability of input for cotton production.
“Due to the shortage, cotton sowing has declined by approximately five percent as the farmers have opted for other crops like maize,” said the official.
According to agriculture sector experts, the yearly increments in input costs are not matching with the increase in price of cotton. The majority of the brunt is borne by small- and medium-scaled farmers. They cannot afford expensive pesticides to prevent the numerous diseases and insects from ruining their crops. According to these growers, the use of fertiliser and water is declining each year.
Lack of water is one of the major impediments in the southern belt of Punjab, which is the main area for the crop. Where the requirement, as per regulations, to provide water supply is four hours, the government only supplies water for 17 minutes.
Due to this limitation, farmers have to install tubewells to irrigate the lands, which directly increase the cost of production. On the other hand, the maize does not need excess water, they added.
Compared to other crops, cotton requires more pesticides and the low cotton price does not help in recovering the cost of production.
“The cost of cotton is double than maize, which provides good profit to the growers,” said Babar Ali, a landlord in southern Punjab while talking to The Express Tribune.
“Maize is a particularly lucrative crop, both edible oil and poultry feed industries are trying to attract farmers with strong financial incentives.”
Ali added that southern Punjab is the best land for cotton production but, unfortunately, the ignorance of government departments is creating hurdles and forcing the growers to switch to other crops.
Sahiwal and neighbouring cities are considered the best land for maize production. This belt is extended from central to southern Punjab. The distance from Sahiwal to Khanewal is 170 kilometres, which is moving towards cotton to maize production, Ali added.
The price of raw cotton is Rs2500 to Rs2600 per maund in local markets. In cotton fields, the growers are getting 30 to 40 maund per acre. On the other hand, the maize crop yield is 100 to 125 maund per acre. The price of maize is Rs1,000 per maund.
He added that the cost of production of maize is Rs30,000 per acre and the value of yield is Rs 100,000 to Rs125,000 per acre. The farmers can easily earn Rs70,000 to Rs90,000 profits per acre in a three-month crop.
“The farmers can produce maize three times in a year, while cotton growers can achieve only one yield of six-month cotton produce and have to produce wheat for the last six months,” said Abid Ali, a farmer in central Punjab.
The growers of southern Punjab added that a decade ago, the provincial government was providing pesticide free of charge to prevent the cotton crops from various diseases. But now there is no such facility.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2014.
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