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Pakistan to announce Rs 10 billion research fund to enhance cotton

The Pakistan government aims to enhance cotton production next season and is likely to announce a Rs 10 billion research development fund, as harvest for the natural fibre remained lacklustre for the last few years. This was announced at a high level meeting. The aim of creating a R&D was welcomed by representatives of major cotton-producing provinces, Punjab and Sindh which attended the meeting held at the Planning Commission. Officials disclosed it was a 10-year plan which would be sent to the federal cabinet for approval.

This plan may be formally announced in next fiscal year’s budget in May this year. Under the plan, the government will spend Rs 1 billion every year on R&D activities to find out ways of increasing the production of cotton, which keeps the home fires of the textile industry of Pakistan burning. The plan was announced after spinning mills went to court challenging the cotton cess of Rs 400 million that they had been paying every year for spending on R&D, however, for the past two years, they had refused to contribute and went into litigation with the federal government. It was decided at the meeting that the research fund would be disbursed in the form of competition grant to researchers. The absence of a support price has also pushed cotton farmers towards planting other crops such as wheat and sugarcane for which the government has been announcing support prices to ensure a fair return to growers. In recent years, cotton plantation area has shrunk post setting up of sugar mills in the cotton zone of south Punjab. Cotton farmers who have not been able to generate cost effective production have switched to sugarcane cultivation in areas where sugar mills have been set up.

The presence of mills in top cotton-growing areas and their increasing crushing capacity have resulted in a 26 per cent fall in cotton-sowing areas, especially in south Punjab including Rahim Yar Khan and Muzaffargarh. The Ministry of Textile Industry has also demanded provinces should stop granting permission to establish new sugar mills in the cotton-growing areas. Cotton production has been estimated at 11.1 million bales in the on-going season when compared to the target of 12.6 million bales. The harvest was even lower at 10.7 million bales last year.