2009/10 cotton output sees at 12.5m bales

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Output from Pakistans 2009/10 cotton crop will be more than 12.5 million bales, compared with 11.8 million bales the previous year, government and industry officials said on Tuesday. Pakistan is the worlds fourth biggest cotton producer but often has to import supplies to meet the demand of its textile sector, which accounts for about 60 percent of total exports. Officials had earlier estimated about 12 million bales in the crop year ending in March after pest and virus attacks in the major cotton-growing area of Punjab province. But output had increased significantly in the southern province of Sindh, an industry official said. We are now estimating the cotton crop this year to be over 12.5 million bales, as the crop in Sindh has been very good, Naseem Usman, chairman of the Karachi-based Cotton Brokers Forum, told Reuters. A spokesman for the Food Ministry said the government had expected 12.1 million bales, but arrivals in the market had shown a 24 percent increase over last season and it now expected the crop to be to be about 12.5 million bales. By Dec. 15 about 11.29 million bales have arrived at the ginning factories as compared to 9.09 million bales recorded in the same period last year, the spokesman said. Pakistan has set a target of 13.36 million bales for the 2009/10 crop after the area under cultivation increased to 3.2 million hectares (7.9 million ares) from 2.8 million hectares last year, but attacks by pests and cotton leaf curl virus have taken a toll. Pest and virus attacks were likely to cut the crop in Punjab province, which had been expected to produce 10 million bales, by 10-15 percent. Output in Sindh, the other major cotton-growing province, has been estimated at about 4 million bales. Final crop estimates are usually made in February. Pakistans cotton output in 2008/09 fell to 11.8 million bales, well below a target of 14.1 million bales, mainly because of a shortage of water, pest attacks and a 7.7 percent cut in the area under cotton cultivation from the year before. Domestic consumption fluctuates between 14 million and 16 million bales a year. But with no bar on exports, growers also sell their output in the international market to fetch a better price, meaning more has to be imported. Usman said Pakistan would need to import 3 million to 3.5 million bales this year as about one million bales would likely be exported this year. We have already exported about 300,000 bales between August and November, he said.

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