Even as cotton prices continue to lift, Pakistan’s cotton industry remains bedraggled by one challenge after another. And analysts don’t see any respite soon, forecasting another difficult season in coming in the new year.
The central and widespread concern in Pakistan is the threat posed by September rains, which may be heavy enough to significantly damage cotton crops. Some worry the industry could bleed as much as Rs 40 million for each million bales destroyed.
It has already been a trying year for cotton farmers in Pakistan. The crop missed its target of six million acres, already a figure adjusted down by estimates. In Punjab, acreage might be as low as 5.4 million.
Also, unseasonably high temperature in July have decimated many crops. And while the heat wave was partially abated by subsequent rains, the damage was still extensive. And September typically brings a challenging combination of unusually high humidity and high temperatures, a potentially disastrous combination for cotton farmers. This period normally lasts some three weeks,but this year is expected to stretch to as much as seven.
A few outlying experts have expressed skepticism regarding the pessimistic predictions. Some say the September rains are unlikely to be catastrophic since the crops are at various stages of growth, not all equally susceptible to damage.
Maize continues to gain ground against cotton, the two crops perennially pitted against each other in fierce competition. Hundreds of acres of maize is taking over territory previously inhabited by cotton, especially in Lodharan and Okara.
Many economists worry that Pakistan’s excessive reliance upon cotton renders the nation vulnerable to its short term vacillations. More than half of all Pakistan’s exports are attributable to cotton and cotton related products. Especially during a period of delicate political transition and general economic malaise, another underperforming cotton season could have wide reverberations.