FAISALABAD-Inadequate provision of seed, cotton diseases (especially CLCV), pests, weeds and water issues are affecting the cotton crop and causing a loss to the tune of 10 to 15 million bales worth $4 billion to Pakistan every year.

Australian Cotton expert Dr Neil William Forrester stated during a special lecture titled “Cotton Crisis in Pakistan and Future Pathway” at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad on Monday. He said that in Punjab, cotton production has declined 44 percent and in Sindh it has reduced 5 percent and overall production has gone down by 34 percent. He said that Pakistan has already imported 2.2m bales due to last less production from July to December, causing the national kitty $434 million.

He also said that the cotton-producing districts of Southern Punjab and Northern Sindh are among the poorest in the country. He said that modern seed can raise Pakistan’s cotton output from 10 million bales to 15 million bales per year, which can bring $3.1 to 4.6 billion to the pockets of Pakistan’s 1.7 million cotton farmers.

He said that Pakistan is a NET importer of cotton (export 0.3m, import up to 2.3m bales). He said that textile industry is expected to increasingly rely on imported long staple and quality cottons to produce export-oriented high quality textile products. He said that cotton breeding in Pakistan now largely non-existent, just taking selections out of current material, goes to seed multipliers, sell through an informal black seed market, aim is for rapid (2 year) varietal turnover. He also called for strong government regulatory framework for the Pakistan cotton seed industry

He also stressed upon the need to establish a professional cotton seed company which can breed truly new varieties of cotton and produce pure seed with high germination. He also stressed upon the need to introduce new technologies for control of Bt resistant pink bollworms

He said that government needs to implement and enforce the Seed Act and the Plant Breeders Rights Act.

Former National Assembly speaker Syed Fakhar Imam said that agricultural research budget in the country is negligible that must be enhanced to support the researchers. He said that besides subsidy of billions of dollars, the Indian government is providing support price to 32 crops. He called for mechanism of support price for the cotton growers at least Rs3,200 in Pakistan also to meet the demands. He warned if tangible steps not taken, the cotton growers would shift to other crops that will more worsen the cotton shortfall next year.

UAF VC Dr Iqrar Ahmad said that the cotton production has been facing stagnation for the last 20 years, which is the matter of concern. He said that seed system is not working in the country, adding that breeders have conducted tangible work on the seed but it is not being translated into goods and services. He said that the UAF scientists have developed genotype of cotton PB-896 that is high yielding and very good fibre quality traits cotton strain developed.

Former Agriculture Secretary Arif Nadeem, Dr Hafeez Sadaqat, and Dr Mirza Aslam also spoke on the occasion.