Higher cotton production by Sindh and Punjab helped the country improve its overall output by 7.16% YoY up to Dec 31, 2017, according to the latest figures issued by the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association on January 3, 2018. Yet the production level remained lower than the official revised estimate of 12.6 million bales.
The country produced 11.11m bales against 10.36m bales in the corresponding period of the last season. The government initially estimated that cotton production would be 14.1m bales because of the higher acreage of land coming under cultivation. But the cotton crop faced a lot of issues as the season progressed.
Heavy rains affected the crop at one stage. In addition, a heat wave retarded the growth of cotton plants. Pest attacks in many cotton-growing areas of Sindh and Punjab also hurt the crop. Sindh continued to post a higher production growth than Punjab. During the period under review, Sindh recorded a growth of 12.38pc to 4.21m bales. In contrast, Punjab recorded a growth of 4.2pc to 6.89m bales.
Consequently, cotton prices soared to the seven-year high of Rs8,100 per maund. They stood at Rs14,000 per maund in 2010-11 amid a worldwide surge in commodity prices. The higher flow of phutti (seed cotton) in the last fortnight (Dec 15-31) was instrumental in improving cotton production. Around 0.42m bales reached ginneries compared to 0.22m bales a year ago.
Spinners tried to import cotton in large quantities earlier in the season. But they shifted their focus on local cotton as world prices surged. As a result, spinners purchased 9.56m bales compared to 8.82m bales last season. Exporters also purchased 0.21m bales against 0.12m bales that they lifted in the corresponding period of the last year.
Ginners are holding unsold stocks of 1.33m bales compared to 1.35m bales a year ago. Of 609 ginning units still operating in the country, 446 are in Punjab and 163 are in Sindh. A substantial quantity of unpicked phutti is still in the cotton fields, which means the national output may reach 11.5m bales.