Looming water shortage for rice, cotton crops worries exporters in Pakistan

Exporters have expressed concerns over expected water shortage for rice and cotton crops during the current Kharif season.

Pakistan’s rice and textile exports are declining during the current year, and they are feared to drop further if enough water is not available for crops, exporters said.
The experts responded to a report of Indus River System Authority (IRSA) saying that the country is facing a significant water shortage of 37% during the current Kharif season, which could affect important cash crops.

Hamid Zaman, Chairman (North Zone) of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), told WealthPK that constant decline in cotton production was already hurting the country’s textile sector and exports.

“Decline in cotton production is directly hitting Pakistan’s exports, employment and in come of the people besides increasing trade deficit,” he said.
Hamid called upon the government to take measures for water conservation in the country.

“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy as it provides raw material to industry and ensures food security,” he said. 

The APTMA representative said textile producers have to pay $400 million to import one million bales of cotton. “Imported cotton is expensive and it also impacts the competitiveness of the textile sector,” he added.

Hamid said that government should help farmers to grow cotton crop.

“According to an estimate, Pakistan was losing at least $5 billion directly on account of low production of cotton,” Hamid said, adding that increase in cotton production will have a direct impact of $1 billion per 1 million bales.

According to the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, production of cotton declined by 35.49% in Pakistan due to various reasons during last 12 years.

Chela Ram Kewlani, Chairman of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), said while talking to WealthPK that the federal and provincial governments should take measures to ensure availability of water for important crops during the coming season.

He pointed out that the export of rice was already on a declining trend during the current fiscal year. 
“Rice export dropped by 11.17% in terms of value and 19.49% by quantity during first 10 months of the current fiscal year,” Kewlani said.

The REAP chairman said rice crop was damaged by floods last year, and now another calamity is feared in shape of water shortage.

Kewlani said that exporters were expecting rice exports to grow over $2.8 billion during the current fiscal year (2022-23) after getting encouragement from record exports of $2.51 billion during last fiscal year. However, he said, initially the floods, and then the water shortage shattered their hopes.

He urged the government to re-consider the water distribution formula for the coming seasons to avoid such situations in future.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Pakistan spent $1.828 billion to import 776,394 metric tons (MT) of raw cotton during 2021-22.

Pakistan’s rice exports increased by 23% during the fiscal year 2021-22 compared to the exports of 2020-21, PBS reported. During 2021-22, over 4.877 million metric tons of rice valuing $2.511 billion was exported against 3.684 million metric tons worth $2.041 billion during 2020-21.

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