KARACHI: The non-professional approach of the Textile Ministry and Cotton Crop Assessment Committee (CCAC) in fixing the realistic target of cotton production during the 2017-18 crop season was the outcome of not considering the opinion of the stakeholders and growers, traders opined. The country will harvest around 12.5 million cotton bales, which is 2.3 million bales lower than the government’s figure of 14.8 million bales for the season 2017-18, they added. A senior member of the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) and President PCGA Sanghar Cotton Belt Region, Rana Abdul Sattar, said the main reasons in lagging behind the target were theinsufficient water supply, poor pest control, inadequate provision of inputs – including pesticides to tackle mealy bug, Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCV) – and sowing of Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) cotton without certification. Mr Sattar said the production estimate suggested by the government has not been practical and even the revised target in the future would no longer be attainable. He believed the better lint consumption deficit would stand around two million bales as the current government’s projections have been lowered to around to 11.8 million bales. Punjab’s production is estimated at around 10.9 million bales while Sindh’s is at around 3 million bales. In the last crop season, Punjab produced more than 8 million bales while Sindh’s production remained at three million bales. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan produced 0.001.2m bales and 0.043m bales, respectively. He said no step has been proposed from government quarters to protect the crop from mealy bug damage in lower Sindh areas and mealy bug and CLCV damage to the country’s largest cotton belt in Punjab. Sattar stated that around 65 percent of the total cultivation in the country was BT type cotton. Nearly 90 percent of this type is cultivated in Sindh and about 50 percent is cultivated in Punjab. The rains and virus attack reduced the size of the cotton crop by 15-20 percent and adversely affected the quality of the crop, he asserted. A senior trader and member of the Karachi Cotton Association, Ghulam Rabbani,said there was no scientific mechanism to make a correct assessment of the cotton crop size as wrong assessment had an adverse impact on the interests of the stakeholders; particularly the ginners and growers. He said the country would face a shortfall of around 3.09 million bales for which the mills will import to fulfill the shortfall. The import will cost around Rs 27.5 billion to the national exchequer. CCAC had estimated the output for 2016-17 to remain 11.40 million bales but it was lowered by 20 percent. The Plant Protection Department, Trading Cooperation of Pakistan, Pest Warning Department and Central Cotton Committee should keep close coordination on a frequent basis in order to keep the growers informed about policy development and preventing steps to safeguard standing crop from white fly and boll worm. Cotton growers emphasised the need for an extensive awareness campaign about pest management and rain damage. The cotton crop size was assessed on the basis of data provided by provincial governments.