|Output set to fall as Bt cotton fails (19/9/2007)|
1.Pakistan to face 25% shortfall in lint production
EXTRACTS: ...the recent spell of rains in the Sindh and Punjab cotton growing belts affected the quality and the volume of the crop, especially the Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) variety of cotton. (ITEM 1)
"The farmers in Punjab opted for Bt cotton cultivation in a big way with the hope of earning better returns. Their hopes are belied with the largescale incidence of mealy bug... the farmers incurred a loss within the range of Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per hectare." - Punjab state agriculture director, BS Sidhu (ITEM 2)
NOTE: Bt cotton had been massively hyped in Pakistan with talk of it contributing "five million bales of cotton this season - about 30 to 40 per cent of expected 14 to 15 million bales cotton output this autumn" (BT cotton seeds to yield over 5m bales this season)
But the reality has turned out to be very different (item 1). On the other side of the frontier in India, meanwhile, Bt cotton's susceptibility to the mealy bug is also hitting both output and profitability in the Punjab (item 2).
1.Country to face 25% shortfall in lint production
KARACHI: The country will face around 25 percent shortfall of cotton yield due to mealy bug and Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCV) attack and reddening of leaf, growers said on Tuesday.
Punjab was likely to produce 11 million bales while Sindh's production was estimated around three million bales this season.
A senior member of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) and President PCGA Sanghar cotton belt region, Raja Abdul Sattar said the recent spell of rains in the Sindh and Punjab cotton growing belts affected the quality and the volume of the crop, especially the Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) variety of cotton.
Mr Sattar said the virus attack and recent rainfall affected around 65 percent of the crop in interior Sindh and adjoining areas including Sanghar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Badin and Umerkot, where the crop was at an advanced stage and plants had started to flower.
He said the crop in Digri, Naukot, Sukkur, Khairpur and Nawabshah was under attack of mealy bug and reddening of leaf, where 90 percent of BT cotton crop was at the maturity level.
He said though the damage to the cotton crop was limited in Punjab but concern was building that the mealy bug and CLCV would endanger the countrys largest cotton belt in Punjab. These conditions have brought into question whether Pakistani cotton producers could meet the 2007-08 production target or not?
He said CLCV has no remedy and farmers should be on guard if any one claims its treatment. Dry weather conditions are conducive for the cotton plant. He said at least, the lower quality of the Sindh crop would affect the volume of higher-grade imports needed. He said the recent damage to the crop would likely to reduce the overall size of the cotton crop by around 8-10 percent.
The federal government set the target of 14.14 million cotton bales for the crop season 2007-08. There would be a shortfall of around 3.1 million bales, he added. He said around 45 percent of the total cultivation in the country is BT type cotton. Nearly 90 percent of this type is cultivated in Sindh and about 30 percent is cultivated in Punjab.
He said September is crucial for the cotton crop as it bears fruits these days, therefore it is important for the cotton growers to handle the cotton virus attacks with utmost care and help of agricultural scientists. According to a fortnightly report of PCGA, cotton arrival has reached 1.013 million bales mark on September 15, 2007, but still lower by 14 percent over last years 13.102 million bales.
2.Cotton output in Punjab set to fall
The Punjab state agriculture director, BS Sidhu told FE that incidence of mealy bug has occurred largely in the Malwa region consisting of Bhatinda, Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozpur districts. "The farmers in Punjab opted for Bt cotton cultivation in a big way with the hope of earning better returns. Their hopes are belied with the largescale incidence of mealy bug," he said.
According to Sidhu, cotton output in Punjab is slated to fall to 2.5 million bales this year despite the increase in area under Bt cotton. In the previous year the state produced 2.698 million bales of cotton.
Sidhu said that the farmers took to use of chemical pesticides like organophosphates and carbamates, but the situation could not be fully controlled. According to him, the farmers incurred a loss within the range of Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per hectare.
Sidhu is in Delhi to attend the national conference on agriculture convened by the central government to discuss and strategies for the upcoming winter crops.
The conference is deliberating on the performance of summer (kharif) crops in different states and is slated to finalise the production estimates on September 19.
The director of Agro Chemicals Policy Group, RG Agarwal said, "Had the government promoted the use of pesticides in the right time, the loss could have been avoided."
The biotech seed industry is, however, confident that the incidence of mealy bug on Bt cotton in Punjab would only marginally affect the prospects of cotton production on the national level.
The executive director of All India Crop Biotechnology Association, RK Sinha said, "This year the area under Bt cotton has increased to about 550,000 hectares from 380,000 hectares in the previous year. About 17 million packets of Bt cotton seeds have been sold this year, he said.