At the China (Ordos) International Cashmere and Wool Exposition held in China’s northern province Inner Mongolia, Pakistani Ambassador to China Moin ul Haque invited Chinese investors, entrepreneurs and fashion designers to explore the Pakistani market for joint ventures in the areas of textile, garments, and woolen products. “As a major source of wool, yarn, and fabric to world markets, Pakistan stands ready to share these bounties of nature with China as well”, he said Gwadar Pro reported on Thursday. The growth and cultivation of cotton, wool, and cashmere has always been the backbone of Pakistan’s agriculture and livestock sectors. According to a research report by China-Pakistan Agricultural and Industrial Information Cooperation Platform (CPAIC), about 14pc of arable land in Pakistan is used to grow cotton, and about 1.5 million farmers are engaged in cotton cultivation. From 2014 to 2019, its cotton area harvested took up nearly 10pc of the global total. In the latest forecast by the Cotton Crop Assessment Committee, the total cotton production in the country for the year 2021-22 is anticipated at 9.74 million bales, a leap from last year’s 4.5 million bales. But meanwhile, resurgent overseas demand for finished textile products as exemplified by a 26pc increase in textile export in September may lead to a record amount of cotton import this year expected at 5.6 million bales as forecast by USDA. The huge gap between supply and demand has driven the cotton price to a ten-year high at Rs15,000 per mound last Friday. The lucrative opportunities call for vigorous efforts and enhanced production. According to the analysis of the CPAIC report, climate uncertainties, pests, shrinking planting areas, backward research technologies, and limited processing capacity are constraining the “white gold” to fully unleash its value. Cotton production in Pakistan is directly impacted by climate; particularly, abnormal rainfall and temperature will result in a drop in cotton production. As per the statistics of USDA on Pakistan’s cotton production from 2000 to 2019, cotton output reached a record high in 2005 due to sufficient irrigation water and good pest and disease control. In the subsequent few years, the production dropped sharply and remained low; one reason was that the ratio of cotton seedling emergence decreased because of frequent heavy rains during the sowing season, while cotton buds fell off due to insufficient rainfall in the later stage of the planting season and the high temperature. From a long-term perspective, the area dedicated to cotton by growers has been declining in the last few years. Punjab and Sindh provincial governments estimate planted cotton area 2021/22 to be 1.9 million hectares, 14 percent less than last year. Due to counterfeit pesticides and economic stimulus, the price of cotton could hardly cover its production cost. A comparative analysis by the Central Cotton Research Institute Multan on cotton production costs in Pakistan, China, and India shows that Pakistan has the highest production cost. As a result, some farmers have switched to other crops such as corn, rice, and sugarcane. According to the CPAIC report, independent research and international cooperation are in dire need to improve the quality of cotton seeds and their resilience against abnormal weather, diseases, and pests. From 2019 to 2020, the seedling emergence rate of new cotton buds was only 40pc to 60pc under the influence of severe pests, complicated climate, and insufficient supply of cotton seeds, far below the normal level of over 80pc. Under the mode of free cultivation, farmers pick cotton by hand and sell it to nearby ginning factories without grading. Lack of proper picking and variety separation results in impurities in cotton. Medium to low-quality products dominate the market, i.e., Color Grade M and SLM, strength 28 GPT or lower, and length below 26mm. Cotton germplasm resources are the foundation for cotton basic research and applied research. According to Professor Du Xiongming, Dean of the Cotton Germplasm Division in the Institute of Cotton Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Chinese cotton is renowned for its high yield, high quality, and early maturity, while Pakistani cotton excels in its resistance to heat, drought, salt and alkali, and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV). The cooperation of the two sides in the collection and identification of cotton germplasm resources is of great significance, and the timing is right. More than 300 cotton germplasm resources have been exchanged, told Professor Du. MoUs of joint research programs have been signed with several Chinese institutions, including Huazhong Agricultural University (HZAU), Xinjiang Agricultural University (XAU), School of Agriculture Sciences, Zhengzhou University (ZZU), and Institute of Cotton Research (ICR) of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Anyang. “Many Chinese textile companies have established their production units in Pakistan. And recently, the Challenge Apparel Group of China factory in Pakistan was inaugurated by the president of Pakistan”, Ambassador Haque informed the participants of the China (Ordos) International Cashmere and Wool Exposition.