Currently, Pakistan is facing economic challenges. Although the present government is implementing positive measures to address these issues, our national development and prosperity will remain elusive until we break free from the grip of the IMF.

To achieve economic stability and prosperity, we must prioritize agriculture and take urgent steps towards modern agricultural research. Unfortunately, there is a lack of focus on research, particularly in the cotton sector.

Until the 1990s, India lagged behind Pakistan in cotton production. However, today, India not only surpassed Pakistan but also topped the global ranking with 34.7 million bales of cotton in the 2023-24 season, accounting for 25% of the world’s total production.

India has become the largest producer of cotton, while Pakistan’s production remains at barely 8-9 million bales, making it the fifth largest producer with a share of only 4-5% in the global production. India has solid plans to increase its cotton production to over 40 million bales by 2030, while Pakistan faces uncertainty due to factors affecting cotton cultivation and production.

The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) report indicates a 35% water shortage this year, leading the Punjab department to reduce the target for cotton cultivation from 5 million acres to 4 million acres. Additionally, the area dedicated to sugarcane and paddy crops is rapidly increasing in cotton-cultivated areas. Unfortunately, the government has not yet announced the support price for cotton.

In contrast, India has fixed support prices for 31 crops, while we have not fixed the support price for any crop except wheat or sugarcane. Today, the sectors with the potential to rescue Pakistan from IMF dependency are cotton research institutes and the textile industry.

However, unfortunately, the government’s attention to these sectors is inadequate at present. We need to reassess the situation and chart the right path for our future. Currently, India allocates 0.4% of its total GDP to research and development, while Pakistan spends less than half of that. Without investing in research, we cannot achieve the desired results.

Today, the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), the largest cotton research organization under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, is in a serious financial and administrative crisis. This institution was established after Pakistan’s independence under the guidance of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The Cotton Committee was formed in 1948 under the Cotton Cess Act, 1923. Currently, the situation is dire. About 1100 agricultural scientists and other employees have not received salaries and pensions for the last 22 months, but their plight is being ignored.

The financial resources of the cotton committee depend on a cotton cess of Rs 50 per bale of cotton, which was set in 2012. However, even in 2024, the cess rate remains the same. It’s now imperative to increase it to around 150 to 200 rupees per bale.

Unfortunately, the 80% textile industry has stopped paying the cotton cess of 50 rupees per bale since 2016.The Government of Pakistan needs to take immediate action on this matter. They should seal the defaulting textile mills and hold tax evaders accountable.

Currently, the textile industry owes more than 3 billion rupees in cotton cess to the cotton committee.

The government should condition the import and export of the textile industry on the payment of cotton cess and should not issue NOCs (No Objection Certificates) to mills until they pay the cotton cess.

The Cotton Committee has delivered three bumper crops of cotton in the history of Pakistan. In the last bumper crop year, 2014-15, we harvested more than 14 million bales of cotton. However, since the textile industry stopped paying cotton cess, cotton research in Pakistan has been severely affected, leading to a rapid decline in cotton production.

Today, we have dropped from 14 million bales to barely 8 to 9 million bales. Despite the challenging conditions faced by the Cotton Committee, its subsidiary, the Central Cotton Research Institute Multan, achieved an honorable feat last year in 2023. The cotton variety Cyto 547 ranked first among varieties from both public and private sectors across Punjab in the National Coordinated Varietal Trial (NCVT).

Currently, our textile industry consumes 16 million bales of cotton annually, requiring us to import billions of dollars’ worth of cotton each year. The government should establish a national commission immediately to investigate the reasons for the decline in cotton production.

All stakeholders, including the PCCC should be held accountable, and those responsible should be held to account. This commission will openly reveal the roles of stakeholders and help predict the best strategies for increasing cotton production in the future.

Many countries worldwide are investing in cotton research and development, with support from both government and private sectors. These research institutes are funded through revenues or taxes generated from cotton production and trade.

However, unlike other countries, in Pakistan, we see a situation where cotton researchers are deprived of salaries and pensions, which is shameful and disheartening. In India, the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) is fully backed by the Indian government and the Cotton Corporation of India, which imposes taxes on cotton production.

Similarly, Vietnam’s Vietnam Cotton and Silk Research Institute (VCSRI) receives funding from the government and the Vietnam Cotton Association, which taxes cotton imports. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) is supported by the government and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), funded through taxes on cotton production.

In the United States, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is funded by the government and receives support from the Cotton Board, which taxes cotton production. Similarly, China’s Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) is financed by the government and the China Cotton Association, which taxes cotton production.

These examples demonstrate how various countries promote cotton research and development through funding mechanisms. Unfortunately, the Cotton Committee, Pakistan’s largest research body, doesn’t receive government support for salaries, pensions, or operational expenses. Not a single rupee is allocated for these purposes.

In India today, the government provides numerous subsidies and incentives to cotton farmers for agricultural inputs. They’ve heavily invested in irrigation infrastructure and modern irrigation systems, ensuring access to water. Quality cotton seeds that yield high-quality produce are readily available, along with modern farming machinery.

Research and development in cotton farming are prioritized, and electricity is cheap. Prices of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides are reasonable. Good market access, favorable government policies, and diverse climate and geography contribute to cotton growth.

Government initiatives like the National Food Security Mission and the Cotton Mission help farmers adopt better practices and improve production. Additionally, private sector investment in research and development boosts growth and efficiency.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Comments

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KU May 22, 2024 11:44am
Indian agri-achievement is based on vision, research, feasible business n rational policy, we have none of this. We have good agri-scientists, but they are not given funds or encouraged by Raj rule.
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Az_Iz May 22, 2024 05:31pm
Increasing cotton production thru better yield is what is needed. Not by just Increasing area at the cost of rice and sugarcane. Farmers should grow what is more profitable to them.
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Tariq May 22, 2024 06:02pm
@KU, Govt is is Corrupt.
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Syedzada May 24, 2024 10:42am
The sharply decreasing number is alarming, an urgent need for immediate and effective government intervention to address this critical issue.
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