Determined efforts underway to ensure maximum cotton sowing

IPM model has been introduced to keep cotton crops safe and secure from attack of pink bollworms

MULTAN   -   Cotton, often revered as “white gold,” stands as a cornerstone for the national economy by helping to attain nearly 64 percent of the export revenue.

The cultivation of cotton sustains the livelihoods of countless individuals in the agriculture hub of South Punjab, from diligent peasants to industrious rural laborers, both male and female. The crops also support workers in the ginning and textile sectors thus weaving a tapestry of employment opportunities throughout the supply chain.

However, in recent years, there has been a gradual decline in the cultivation of cotton. This downward trend not only poses challenges for rural communities but also casts a shadow over the broader economic landscape, diminishing the vitality of textile exports.

Farmers show a lack of interest in the cultivation of cotton even in the cotton belt of South Punjab. There were multiple factors for the decline of cotton cultivation areas.

In 2011-12, the cotton cultivation area was over five million acres in the region. The cultivated area underwent decline mainly due to low profitability, pest attacks, and a shift of farmers’ focus to some other profit-generating crops including maize and sugarcane.

The farmers were facing losses, and continuous pest attacks, particularly pink bollworm, and the third issue was rising prices of inputs and climate changes. In 2020, the cotton cultivation area was reduced to 3.168 million acres at the provincial level and its production figures were reduced to the level of production obtained in 1984.

During the last season, a satisfactory shift towards cotton was observed. However, this year too, there are several problems including a sense of disappointment triggered by the wheat crisis. The agriculture department was performing the amicable role in convincing the farmers to focus on cotton production. But the wheat situation has created trouble for the farmers, said Malik Khalid Bhara, a resident of district Vehari. Due to some concrete measures on the part of the agriculture department, efforts are underway to revive cotton to its full potential.

Secretary Agriculture Iftikhar Sahu, during his last visit to the city, informed that the agriculture department set a target of cotton cultivation at 4 million acres. Over 90 percent of cotton is sown in South Punjab. He instructed officials to work with full dedication to meet the targets. In South Punjab, cotton will be sown at 3,750,000 acres while the target for the rest of the Punjab is 250,000 acres only. The agriculture department decided to conduct digital monitoring of staff to ensure their presence in the fields to improve cotton production. He also remarked that additional duties of the staffers were removed and they had been instructed to focus on cotton. The officials of the Irrigation Department have been put on board to address the shortage of water for the crop.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Technical Dr Haider Karar talking to APP informed that different measures were being taken to enhance cotton cultivation across the region. He hinted that a special training session had been conducted. About the cotton enhancement strategy, he maintained that they were also contacting politicians, “Numberdar”, influential people in rural areas, and assistance from different agriculture industries to ensure maximum production.

Secretary of Agriculture South Punjab Saqib Ateel said that the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) model has also been introduced to keep cotton crops safe and secure from attack of pink bollworms. He hinted that the model remained highly successful. As many as 262 demonstration plots, consisting of 1071 acres have also been introduced in the region for the motivation of the farmers, he added. The farmers are also being suggested to sow triple gene verities as it offers immense resistance against different diseases. Rao Arif, a peasant in Vehari, stated that the cotton crop was matchless in terms of profit ratio. He said that he used to plant nearly 180,000 plants per acre and pick handsome production. Amid high inflation, the shortage of resources could damage the cotton crop. According to the Crop Reporting Department, the agriculture department succeeded in achieving the 60.1 % target in the province.

In South Punjab, the Bahawalpur division is leading as the 65.2 % sowing target has been achieved. Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions are at 58.4 % and 56.8 % respectively. The officials hoped that the department would achieve the target in the next few days as the process of cotton sowing is heading forward rapidly.

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