Agriculture is the main stay of the Pakistani economy. The total share of agriculture in our GDP is 21.4 per cent., which is almost the biggest share in different sectors our economy. While in agriculture cotton has the major share of 7 per cent in the GDP of Pakistan. Our country is the fourth major producer of cotton crop and being the third largest exporter of cotton and we are earning a big share of foreign exchange out of it. Pakistan is heavily dependent on cotton production which significantly contributes by providing raw material to the textile industry of Pakistan. Cotton is a soft fluffy fiber that grows in a protective boll. It belongs to the Gossypium family. There are four types of cotton throughout the world.
1. Gossypium hirsutum: These types of cotton are native to Central America. Contributes approximately 90 per cent of worlds production
2. Gossypium barbadense: Known as extra-long staple cotton, native to tropical South America (8 per cent of world production)
3. Gossypium arboreum: Tree cotton, native to India and Pakistan (less than 2 per cent)
4. Gossypium herbaceum: Levant cotton, native to southern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (less than 2 per cent)
During the previous year, the cotton crop was sown on an area of 2879,000 hectare. The production recorded during the year was 13.0 million bales. The target was 14.5 million bales that were unfortunately not accomplished due to some uncongenial circumstances. There was a decline of 4.2 per cent against the preceding year production in the country. The cotton is being sown in Southern Punjab including the districts Multan, Bhawalpur, Muzaffargrah, Rahim Yar Khan, Bhawalnagar, Vehari and a major landholding of Sindh is under cotton cultivation. The production in this year was adversely affected by floods due to the monsoon season. The total estimated production of cotton of all the countries of the world was in year 2011-12 was 27.44 million tons but there was a production of almost 26.01 million tons, so there was a decrease in the production all around the world.
There are many reasons for low yields of cotton crop in Pakistan – high price of agriculture inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc), higher intensity of insects and pests attack, shortage of good quality and varieties of seeds, deficiency of water for irrigation, lack of advance technologies, awareness and agro-professionalism, and adulterations in pesticides, fertilizers and seeds. It is unfortunate that there is no proper cotton crop insurance system available in Pakistan, while the government does not provide any support or subsidy to cotton growers for inputs – resulted in frustration and lack of motivation in cotton growers. Farmers are facing with a number of risks till marketing of their crops including unexpected factors like inflation, high price of energy, unfair competition and speculation in open market by big cotton buyers. Although, government claims that they have excellent micro-economy policy to improve the livelihood of farmers and elimination of poverty in rural areas through bank-loans offered to the farmers, however, the interest rates are fairly high.
Agricultural biotechnology is helping today to provide people with more and better crops and food and has the greatest promise for the future. Agricultural methods of the Green Revolution come to an end with lower yields due to environmental degradation and loss of soil seedling varieties and high input costs. Therefore, many farmers all over the world are turning to genetically modified (GM) varieties like BT (Bacillus thuringensis) to meet new challenges. Many Asian countries , including China , India, Indonesia , Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand , Pakistan , Vietnam, and give high priority to plant biotechnology research, hoping to address the pressing challenges related to improving productivity, means life of farmers and promote rural development , and meet the requirements of food safety . Many of these countries focused biotechnology research on food crops and non-food crops and high-value crops, hoping to meet the growing food needs and reduce the use of pesticides and the alleviation of poverty in the rural area.
Cotton provides raw material to the industrial sector of our country. Cotton fiber is spun into yarn and that yarn is further manufactured in the khaddi and plain cloth. That plain cloth is then converted into different types of clothes. Cotton is also used in the production of oil seed cake. The cotton seed is separated and the remaining portion of the lint is then used in the production of oil seed cake. Cotton is also used as the raw material for the production of some types of edible oils. Cottonseed that is to be used for dairy cattle feeding is handled and stored just like seed destined to be crushed.
Textile industry is also dependent on cotton and gives a big opportunity to skilled labor all around the country. Cotton also provides business opportunity to the pesticides and fertilizer sector of the country as fertilizers and pesticides are the basic inputs of the cash crop. This crop is playing a significant role in empowering of woman by providing equal work opportunity in different agriculture practices during the season like sowing, hoeing and picking of cotton bolls. So the cotton production must be encouraged and the latest technology should be employed in this regard. The government should reinforce such policies which aim to strengthen this sector so that farmer and industrialist can work efficiently. It will help us to improve the living standard of people in core and non-core areas of cotton and will boost our economy as well.
The author is associated with the Institute of Agriculture Extension and Rural Development. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>