Outlook for Sindh

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

THE cotton crop in Sindh offers a healthy outlook this season. With last year’s impressive returns — Rs4,000 to Rs5,000 per 40 kg — the farmers have been motivated to grow more cotton this season. The area under this crop has increased. The Sindh Agriculture Department has retained last year’s sowing target of 650,000 hectares for this season. Reports from various areas indicate that cotton sowing is still under way in some areas whereas growers — who opted for early sowing of the crop — have already done the first picking of cotton in places like Tando Mohammad Khan and Badin. Agriculture officials state that acreage has increased to 654,000 hectares this year. “We believe the acreage will increase further,” says an agriculture official after paying a field visit. The Sindh Agriculture Department is eying a production target of 4.5 million bales this year but growers and some officials hope the output to touch a five million bales mark as water has been fairly available, by and large. Last year’s output was, however, 4.2 million bales. The estimates differ because officials are not taking recent reports of pest attacks on cotton lightly, saying if growers do not control it now, it could lead to substantial crop losses. Attacks of thrips, jasid, white fly and mealy bug are being reported from various areas by growers. These attacks are not unusual but still they have to be controlled using proper pesticides and spray in fields. Dr Atta Soomro, who is holding additional charge of DG Agriculture Research Institute, Tandojam, noted jasid pest attack during his field visit. Thrips and root rotwere also there. “These are not unusual but they can’t be taken lightly. These pests also attack BT cotton which is only resistant to American bollworm,” he says. Jasid likes BT cotton’s leaf structure. After BT cotton, the severity of jasid has increased. The growers are advised to use proper spray to control jasid attack. The growers often don’t apply proper protocol of pesticides, and consequently end up as sufferers. The left bank cotton growers of Thatta district also appeared a little disturbed over the pest attack, and as a seasoned cotton producer, Haji Nadeem Shah of Thatta put it “the attack is not being controlled despite use of pesticide”. He feels that cotton crop is quite healthy but the fast blowing winds and humidity has left an adverse impact on it. There is shedding of flower and proper fruit setting has been hit. “I have noted pink bollworm in Mirpurbathoro. Growers are maintaining last year’s cotton plant allowing bollworm to complete its life cycle,” remarks Shah. He says BT cotton doesn’t offer resistance to sucking pests and that’s why they are being found in different cotton growing areas. A Mirpurkhas grower Mir Zafarullah Talpur confirms mealy bug attack on cotton but not on a big scale. He says pesticides are not helpful in curbing the disease. Secretary Agriculture Agha Jan Akhtar considers pest attack as insignificant and says Sindh is bound to have a bumper cotton crop this year. “BT cotton is the most popular of all varieties that is grown by abadgars and it resists pest attacks,” he says. But the grower bodies’ representatives recommend that these attacks should not be ignored and handled carefully to avoid crop losses. The Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) General Secretary Mehmood Nawaz Shah notes that “everything should not be taken for granted because if pest attack is not controlled at this stage the losses to crop can be as high as 20 to 25 per cent”. He says mealy bug attacks four to five plants initially but if it remains unchecked, it increases its severity, harming the entire cotton farmland. The growers sow BT cotton for its better per acre yield potential. Some companies claim the yield as high as 100 maunds per acre. But, on an average, it gives 50 to 60 maunds per acre which leads to major gains for the growers in case of high prices. Meanwhile, irrigation department’s rotation programme continues, leading to protests by cotton growers of tail-end areas of different canal systems. Some growers have already suffered losses in early sowing in Mirpurkhas, Jhuddo, Shahdadpur and Badin areas. Water shortage renders cotton plant weak and vulnerable to different diseases. However, secretary irrigation Khalid Hyder Memon says that growers are usually interested in having 100 per cent cultivation of their lands which is not legally justified. They have to go for 27 per cent cultivation. “If the crop is drying up due to 100 per cent cultivation then complaints are not justified.” he says, admitting that water shortage complaints are also due to mismanagement of irrigation department.

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