LAHORE: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Food Security Jamshed Iqbal Cheema said Friday the government had taken measures to enhance the productivity of all major crops, including cotton, to achieve sustainable economic development and social prosperity. He said the government is determined to develop the agriculture sector on modern lines and utilize all available resources to uplift the sector. He talked to the Managing Committee members of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Punjab during his visit to the Association office. Central Chairman APTMA Mr. Adil Bashir, Chairman APTMA Punjab Mr. Abdul Rahim Nasir, office bearers, and Executive Director APTMA Mr. Raza Baqir were also present on occasion. He said cotton sowing was completed on over 84 percent or 1.96 million hectares out of 2.32 million hectares of the cotton target area, with an output target likely to be achieved this season. The cotton output target was fixed at 10.51 million bales during the current season, he added. He said there was a record production of wheat, rice, maize, moong, onion, and potatoes in the country, and steps are being taken for the revival of the livestock sector. According to him, the government shifted its focus to new areas in Balochistan and Thar Desert areas, especially for crops such as cotton, which have higher chances of success in these areas. Mr. Cheema said that the government has plans to provide loans to farmers, food processing plants across the country, and commercial activities to the rural sector to stop rural to urban migration. He said only a win-win situation would be beneficial to cotton growers and the textile industry, and the government has a strong focus on attaining self-sufficiency in cotton production ahead. Earlier, central Chairman APTMA Mr. Adil Bashir briefed him about the Association and the issues being faced by it. He said the textile industry has a share of 8.5% in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 60% share in exports, and accommodates 40% of the manufacturing sector employment. According to him, cotton is a major raw material for the textile industry, with a present demand of 14 million bales. The cotton production dropped to 5.65 million bales in 2020-21, while the cotton import bill of the industry has jumped to around $1.5 billion per annum. Despite a shortage of cotton, cotton import is burdened with sales tax @17% and cotton cess @Rs50 per bale, he added. Mr. Bashir said Section 3 of the Pakistan Cotton Cess Act. 1923 empowers levy and collection of Cess on cotton. In 2011, the cess rate was enhanced from Rs.20 to Rs.50 per bale of 170 Kg. Till 2012 cess was paid only on local cotton consumed locally or exported from Pakistan. Cotton Cess Rules issued in 2012 required textile mills to pay cotton cess on the consumption of both local and imported cotton. He said notices for payment of cess retrospectively are being sent to member mills since 2019, which was causing harassment and grave financial constraints to APTMA members. Chairman APTMA stressed that consumption of imported cotton might be specifically exempted from levy of cotton cess and past liabilities to keep the industry competitive against regional competitors in view of acute shortage of cotton. He lamented that cotton production dropped to 5.65 million bales in 2020-21 against the industry requirement of 14 million bales. Water shortage, fake pesticides, and poor pest management have resulted in the declining area under cotton production, low yield per hectare, and contaminated cotton. He said the cotton import bill has jumped to around US dollar 1.5 billion per annum, and despite a shortage of cotton, import is burdened with sales tax @17% and cotton cess @Rs50/bale. He said cotton is an important cash crop for Pakistan and a major raw material for the textile industry. Cotton represents 75% of the fiber mix in textile products, and the cotton-based textile industry provides livelihood to 25 million. He said the existing demand for cotton is at least 14 million bales. While suggesting the way forward, Chairman APTMA said there is a need to strengthen and capacity building of agriculture research institutions and improve cotton seed research to increase cotton yield and quality. He has also proposed direct support to farmers to reduce their input cost and technology transfer of high-yielding cotton seed from international sources. He has also proposed strict action against spurious cotton seed/unapproved cotton seeds which have lost efficacy. He has also emphasised contamination-free cotton production, restructuring PCCC to run by the professionals/top cotton research scientists of international repute. Also, he said, there should be crop insurance to reduce crop loss due to floods and other natural calamities besides putting in place market intelligence and information dissemination to improve farmers’ access to information and advisory services. Chairman APTMA Punjab Mr. Abdul Rahim Nasir thanked the SAPM for visiting APTMA and expressed the hope that growers and the industry would resolve the industry at the earliest. He further expressed the hope that the steps taken by the government in enhancing cotton production would be beneficial to the industry as well growers. The visiting SAPM assured APTMA leadership of considering all the proposals for the revival of cotton crop in the country.