The government and the growers are not on the same page on the size of the cotton crop this year. The government insists it will be above 12 million bales growers claim it will be between 8-9 million bales.
Federal Caretaker Minister for Industries and Commerce Gohar Ejaz marked the World Cotton Day by announcing that Pakistan has achieved record cotton production after a lapse of eleven years.
Cotton farmers on the same day accused the government of deliberately overestimating the size of the crop in the middle of the harvesting season to drive down prices and benefit textile millers from cheap raw material.
They were reacting to a statement by the caretaker minister for Industries and Commerce, Dr. Gohar Ejaz, who projected a healthy size of cotton crop at 12 million bales this year, which includes 8 million bales from Punjab and 4 million bales from Sindh.
Ejaz, who is also the patron-in-chief of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), lauded the measures taken by the provincial government that helped Pakistan regain its position among the top cotton producers in the world.
But Kissan Board Pakistan (KBP), a farmers’ body, strongly condemned what it called wrongly portraying a pest-infested cotton crop as a very healthy one. “Such projections on the part of high-ups and provincial agriculture department are only adding salt to the wounds of cotton growers who are made to sell their crop at throwaway prices – much less than Rs 8,500 per maund fixed as the minimum support price by the federal government,” Haji Ramzan, KBP spokesperson, said.
Ramzan termed such an attempt a glaring example of conflict of interest as textile millers would directly benefit due to the manipulation of the cotton market. He claimed that cotton production in Punjab would hardly be around 6 million bales.
“No doubt crop size is better than last year’s flood-ravaged cotton crop in the province, however severe pest attack has badly hit plants and negatively impacted its yield,” Ramzan said. “Above all, we wonder why the minister and provincial chief minister want to jump the gun and don’t wait for the final assessment about the cotton production figure.”
Gohar congratulated Chief Minister Punjab Syed Mohsin Naqvi, Chief Secretary Punjab, and Secretary Agriculture Punjab for their dedicated work towards enhancing cotton production in the province. The country would save foreign exchange worth $3 billion with this increase in cotton production, he stressed.
Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI), another farmers’ group, also contradicted the cotton production figures presented by the federal and provincial governments.
Khalid Khokhar, president of PKI, claimed that cotton price has already declined to Rs 7,500 per maund and may slide further to Rs 7,000 after the statements of the federal minister and Punjab chief minister.
The farmer leader asked government functionaries to exercise utmost caution while uttering words about the size of the cotton crop. “Being responsible representatives of federal and provincial governments, they should first think before speaking about sensitive issues concerning the farming community,” he said.
“The commerce minister projected Punjab production at 8 million bales and countrywide output at 12 million bales, which is not true,” Khokhar insisted. He said that Punjab cotton production would not be more than around 6 million bales and national production would nearly be 9 million bales.
Gohar addressed a press conference at the APTMA Lahore office. Chief Minister Punjab Syed Mohsin Naqvi, Chairman APTMA North Mr. Kamran Arshad, Senior Vice Chairman Mr. Asad Shafi, former Chairman APTMA Syed Ali Ahsan, Secretary General Mr. Raza Baqir and other members were also present on the occasion.
He also highlighted that the province of Punjab had produced 3.3 million bales by October 1, besides 1.6 million bales in the province of Sindh.
He also announced a Rs 100 million fund for the Cotton Research Centre on behalf of APTMA, making it clear that APTMA would not fund the salaries of the staff of the Research Centre. Gohar said this remarkable growth showcases the dedication and hard work of our farmers and the resilience of our cotton industry.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Punjab Syed Mohsin Naqvi appreciated the Agriculture department for their hard work to revive cotton production in the province. He also expressed his special thanks to the Pakistan Army for controlling the attack of white flies on the cotton crop, saying that a timely action avoided disaster for the standing crop in Punjab and Sindh.