Pakistan’s cotton output set to rise by 18%, but imports likely to continue

Pakistan’s cotton output for the marketing year 2021/22 is forecast to rise by 18% to around 5.3 million bales due to the availability of new seed varieties, better pest and disease management, and government support, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Despite the rise in output, Pakistan’s cotton output remains at historic lows and to keep its textile mills humming it will continue to import large volumes of cotton. The nation’s imports are seen to remain constant at 5.0 million 480- pound bales.

Textile mill consumption is forecast slightly higher at 10.3 million bales, due to brisk milling activity undergirded by strong government support policies for the country’s important textile industry. 

Cotton, which is the lifeline of Pakistan’s textile industry, is planted on 14% of arable land during the summer season from April to June. Production is concentrated in two provinces with Punjab and Sindh accounting for approximately 65 and 35% respectively—small farmers cultivating less than five hectares of land produce over 90% of cotton. 

Pakistan’s cotton production has been in steep decline since the marketing year 2014/15 when cotton output was at its most recent high of 10.6 million 480-pound bales. Since then, its output has dropped by 61% in the past seven years to an estimated 4.5 million bales.

The fall in cotton output has been due to climate change, the narrow genetic base of cotton germplasm, and inaccessibility to the latest generations of Genetically Engineered cottonseed. The textile sector is the largest industrial sector in Pakistan and accounts for about 40 percent of the industrial labor force and employs 10 million people.

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