Jul 29, 2009
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Monsoon brings hope for stable Pakistan cotton crop

Jul 29, 2009

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The arrival of monsoon rains has helped stave off worries about a significant fall in Pakistan's cotton crop, but pest attacks and a strain of virus remain a big concern, an industry official said on Wednesday 29 July.

Photo: REUTERS/Athar Hussain

While the monsoon came late this year, the cotton-growing areas of Punjab and Sindh provinces have seen a rainy spell over roughly the past 10 days, reviving hopes of achieving the government's target of 13.36 million bales for the 2009/10 crop year ending in March.

"At the moment, it's been beneficial. It's affecting quality but as far as quantity is concerned, there'll be no impact on it," Naseem Usman, chairman of the Cotton Brokers Forum in Karachi, said of the recent rains.

Pakistan is the world's fourth-largest cotton producer, but the high demand of its textile sector means it often has to import cotton to feed the industry.

Pakistan's cotton output in 2008/09 fell to 11.8 million bales -- well below the original target of 14.1 million bales -- mainly because of a shortage of water, pest attacks and a roughly 7.7 percent cut in the area under cotton cultivation from the year before.

That area has now been increased to 3.2 million hectares (7.9 million acres) this year, up from 2.8 million hectares last year.

The recent rains were helping to wash away some pests for now, but if the rainy spell persists for more than another three or four days, it could hurt output by accelerating the spread of pests and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV), Usman said.

"We're facing problems of pest and CLCV in Punjab and if that's not overcome, obviously the crop will suffer," he said.

However, Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan, a farmers' association, feared pest and CLCV attacks would make it difficult to achieve this year's output target.

"This year the white fly and CLCV attacks are much more than the previous year.... These two are a major threat to this year's crop."

Mughal said a shortage of water at the time of first irrigation in May and June, as well as delayed use of urea fertiliser on account of high prices, had retarded cotton plant growth and would affect overall production.

Pakistan's domestic consumption fluctuates between 14 million and 16 million bales a year. Cotton and textiles account for about 60 percent of the country's exports.

By Augustine Anthony

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