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EDITORIAL: It takes a special kind of talent to waste a country’s natural comparative advantage, especially one that feeds into its primary export industry, in the way successive Pakistani governments have neglected cotton production. From a one-time big producer and exporter Pakistan now needs to import increasing amounts of raw cotton just to keep its textile industry alive; and production has now reached a 30-year low. “If the government does not take serious steps for increase in cotton crop,” Chairman Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) Dr Jassu Mal very rightly warned during a press conference at the Karachi Press Club the other day, adding that “Pakistan will be completely deprived of cotton cultivation and accordingly textiles.”

One very important reason why we have lagged behind over the last decade or so and countries like Bangladesh have waltzed right past us is our failure to mechanize our farming and keep abreast of technological developments in the field, while other producers have been moving towards production of contamination-free cotton, we still pick ours by hand which contaminates the product. As a result we have to forego the premium for the farmers and the efficiency for the yarn producers that comes with using the contamination-free variety. And there’s still nothing to suggest that any serious consideration is being given to produce new varieties.

This is, unfortunately, another one of those big problems that the government would have to address with great speed. That there would necessarily be a time lag before whatever it decides to do begins to show results only adds to the urgency of getting the ball rolling. The government is already struggling to prop up industry and exports and the last thing it needs is for the textile sector to cave in because of a problem that should never have arisen in the first place. It is sincerely hoped that whatever change the government brings to this sector would be technology-driven, just like our competitors did and ultimately left us behind.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021