A 5-7pc drop in cotton cultivation was reported from most districts of Sindh in the ongoing crop sowing season up to last week of April. The trend may be attributed to non-availability of quality seeds and high prices of farm inputs.
It is only the DAP fertiliser whose price has come down by Rs500 a bag under the Prime Minister’s Kissan Package announced last year, while the urea rate remains unchanged at Rs1,855 a bag.
The Federal Committee on Cotton (FCC) has projected the sowing target for 660,000ha for the province with an estimated production of 4.5m bales. Even if the sowing target is achieved with marginal difference, the desired output figure is unlikely to be achieved. Sindh has not been able to meet the targets set by the agriculture department except for 2009-10 when 4.2m bales were produced.
Farmers in areas like Sanghar — Pakistan’s largest cotton producing district — and also other parts in upper Sindh are reluctant to grow cotton owing to a number of issues of quality seed, price, cost of picking, timely availability of water and frequent pest attacks.
The initial sowing figures indicate that cotton has been cultivated on 70pc of the area by April 26 as compared to 82pc of last year’s corresponding period in Tharparkar:, Mirpurkhas 70pc against last year’s 75pc; Umerkot 75pc against 87pc; Matiari 45pc against 50pc; Badin 18pc against 33pc; Tando Mohammad Khan 6pc against 35pc.
It is only in Benazirabad, Jamshoro and Hyderabad where more area has been cultivated against last year’s corresponding period. It is 42pc in Benazirabad against last year’s 15pc; Jamshoro 40pc against zero acreage; Hyderabad 52pc against 27pc. The sowing, however, would continue till end of June or early July in the upper Sindh.
The agriculture department says the loss in cotton production despite increased acreage last year was caused by rains.
Growers in areas like Sanghar — the country’s largest cotton producing district — and also other parts in the upper Sindh are reluctant to grow cotton owing to a number of issues of quality seeds, price, cost of picking, timely availability of water and frequent pest attacks.
They are switching to — among other crops — short-duration vegetables like onion and hybrid variety of green chilli fetching them better returns.
“I will grow sugarcane instead of cotton this season. I expect to get over Rs200/40kg regardless of the cane rate controversy,” said Amir Ali Shah from Naushahro Feroz, who last season cultivated cotton on 200 acres. “I am also thinking of cultivating sesame which could fetch me Rs3,000-4,000/40kg too,” he adds.
Cotton producers are concerned that the Bt variety has become susceptible to pests like jassid, thrips, pink bollworm and whitefly. They are demanding of the government to take serious measures to help control diseases and reduce spending on pesticides. The unbridled sales of substandard pesticides must be checked, they stressed.
“My crop is one-and-half months old and it is under the whitefly attack. I am forced to control it through expensive sprays,” says Zahid Bhurgari of Sindh Chamber of Agriculture. He adds that growers like him don’t find any attraction in Bt variety.