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3 Million cotton bales shortfall fears          

MULTAN: The single crop country has again been facing a great threat of shortage of three million bales of Phuthi in the current Kharif crop season which is almost 30pc less from the targeted production mainly due to failure in combating with pest Mealy Bug and curl virus attacks, said growers.

The peasants of land of five rivers complained that they did not consult in policy making as the exact pesticide against Mealy Bug infestation was not available in the market or the alternates were available on very high rates due to lack of strong check.

The Vehari, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur is known to bumper crop production areas but the Mealy Bug has destroyed the crop in these areas while Mailsi remained fully damaged. The lionsí share of Punjab production mainly depends upon these districts but major portion of crop has destroyed there.

An experienced Multan based grower Siddique Akbar Bukhari predicted production not more then 11 million bales instead target of 14.2 million bales leaving shortage of 3 million bales. The experiment of Bt cotton sowing has failed in practice, which had almost covered 75pc of under cultivated area this year in result of poor research and planning. He said the pest Mealy Bug critically attacked the crop and the Punjab Directorate of Pest Warning and Quality Control figures claimed 43pc and 73pc CLCV attack on cotton varieties.

Cotton growers from Mailsi, Sahiweal, Pakpattan, Liaquatpur, Jampur and Gojra complained bearing Rs 1500 additional expenses on each acre on purchasing pesticides on double rates due to severe Mealy Bug attack.

The Kehror Pacca based grower Khurshid Ahmed Kanjoo said the international cotton market is touching at high scale with Rs 1500 per maund and if it is calculated with 3 million bales shortage than Rs 5.4 billion would have to spent on import to meet required target of 15 million bales of 1815 textile and ginning units, growers said.

Kanjoo said international lint cotton rates touching to Rs 3250 to Rs 3300 but the textile millers forcing them to sell on Rs 3100 per maund. The millers argue them that if growers would sell their produce in the international market they would have to bear Rs 150-200 export charges so they must sell their produce to textile mills on Rs 3100, he said.

The agriculture statistics sources revealed that cash crop cotton was sown on 8 million acres of land around the country including Punjab under cultivated area of 6.2 million acres with the production target of 14.2 million bales and lionís share of Punjab production of 11 million bales.

Former speaker national assembly Syed Fakhar Imam told this scribe that the incidence of mealy bug attack is widespread in Punjab and Sindh which is the major cotton growing areas of the country and the attack has already affected the cotton production in the country.

Imam said the non-availability of proper pesticides against mealy bug is the major problem to prevent from the pest on permanent basis. He said the government has failed to adopt the necessary measures to minimize the mealy bug threat even though the threat has been present in the cotton crop for the last three years.

Farm experts said the mealy bug has become a great threat to cash crop cotton after cotton leaf curl virus because it comes in 3-4 layers, and the insect lays eggs and hatches them in a natural basket attached to its body, he said. It multiplies rapidly as eggs are hatched in 6-10 hours.

The AgriForum Pakistan chairman Ibrahim Mughal was of the view that no grower could be consulted in policy making at any level and there were no precautionary measures at government level on pest attack especially Mealy Bug and CLCV. He said the target of acreage was achieved and the crop was in better position but mealy bug attack destroyed the fields due to poor planning.

The Central Cotton Research Institute Multan director Muhammad Arshad was of the view that cotton was sown on less area leaving acreage target unfulfilled which would be the major cause in production shortfall.

However, Mughal said the government didnít take any measure to control re-occurrence of Mealy Bug as a consequence of which the same insect has affected the crop this year affecting 4-5 times more crop than last year.

The occurrence of Mealy Bug has not only curtailed the crop size, it also has increased the farmersí production cost, who are forced to apply 3-4 sprays of insecticides to kill it and control the damage, by spending Rs 1,000 per acre, said Mughal.

The Kabirwala based cotton grower Syed Zahid Hussein Gardezi said that almost 50pc small growers are the prime victims of crop destruction and pest attack while the agriculture researchers remained fail in combating with pest attack.

He said the dangerous sign is that pests of different crops moving and migrating from mother crops to other as the Mealy Bug was infect a mango pest but it had transferred in cotton.

Cotton growers maintained that mealy bug was spotted on the cotton crop three years back in Pakistan but it did not cause much loss to the crop. None of the research institutes could identify it or suggest measures to completely eliminate it, while Central Cotton Research Institute Multan initiated research and suggested preventive measure peasants. The insect was sent to England for identification.

A senior research official disclosed that mealy bug attack is three years old but the Federal government has sanctioned a 15 months project in June 2006 after much delay. The official said that a mega project would be imitated later, on mealy bug and the researcher was of the view delay on research leave losses to growers.

The Central Cotton Research Institute Multan director Muhammad Arshad said that all the agriculture departments remained fully engaged in campaign against pest attack and growers were informed timely. However, he said the shortfall is estimated at 12.8 million bales, leaving 1.2 million bales shortfall into 14 million bales target fixed last year.

Courtesy: Business Recorder;

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