Pakistan’s Cotton Production to Go Up

Pakistan's cotton production is likely to go up. (Photo by Asian Development Bank, CC license)
Pakistan’s cotton production is likely to go up. (Photo by Asian Development Bank, CC license)

Pakistan is headed to mixed agriculture output, showing increase in production of cotton, cottonseed, corn and oilseed while wheat and rice production will be slightly low.

Pakistan is expected to see a 10 percent increase in its cotton production for 2017/18, forecast at 8.5 million 480 lb bales, largely due to an expected increase in area under cotton crop. But still, the area under cotton crop remains low compared to historical levels as farmers shift to sugarcane and increasingly popular corn.

The country’s soon-to-be harvested wheat crop is forecast at 25.2 million metric tons, marginally lower than a year ago. Dry conditions at planting, especially in rain-fed areas countered generally ideal conditions during January and February. The government is likely to procure over 6 million metric tons of wheat which will boost public stock levels to around 10.5 million tons shortly after the start of the marketing year in a few months. Pakistan’s MY 2016/17 wheat export estimate is revised down to 600,000 metric tons mainly due to lack of momentum in wheat flour exports to Afghanistan.

Marketing year 2016/17 rice exports are forecast at 4.0 million metric tons, down seven percent from the last year’s figure of 4.3 million metric tons. Similarly, corn production is forecast at 5.8 million tons, three percent higher than the current marketing year demand from the poultry industry and the increased use of hybrids spurs production.

Rice is the second largest export of Pakistan after cotton. Due to slightly lower yield and some quality deterioration, the country has so far witnessed 11 percent decrease in rice exports so far in 2017.

Wheat is one of the main agricultural crops in Pakistan, with 80 percent of farmers growing it on an area of around nine million hectares (close to 40 percent of the country’s total cultivated land) during the winter or “Rabi” season. This crop alone contributed about 10 percent of value added in agriculture and 2.0 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.

The 2107/18 wheat area decreased marginally due to dry conditions and poor soil moisture from September to December, particularly in areas where the crop is largely rain-fed. Farmers also switched to sugar cane and corn in some areas. In spite of the decrease in area, a good harvest is expected due to a significant increase in the use of fertilizer and good rains and temperatures in January and February.

Cottonseed continues to be Pakistan’s largest domestically produced oilseed and is expected to reach 3.7 million metric tons in 2017/18. Marketing year (MY) 2017/18 (Oct-Sep) oilseed production is forecast at 4 million metric tons (MMT) up 9 percent from the current marketing year due to projected increase especially in cottonseed production.

According to US Department of Agriculture’s estimates, Pakistan is likely to continue as a significant importer of cotton to augment domestic production, though imports are expected to decline somewhat in response to improved production. Annual cotton consumption has been largely unchanged for over a decade and that trend is expected to continue into 2017/18. Pakistan has announced a funding package aimed at expanding the textile sector which includes a reduction in the cotton import tariff to zero.

Production is rebounding from the disastrous 2015/16 crop that saw farmers respond to low cotton prices by limiting the use of inputs for insect control and minimize pickings to save on labor costs. Yields improved in 2016/17, but planted area was limited by low prices and farmer concerns over the remuneration from cotton based on their experience a year earlier. As prices improved during the 2016/17 season, farmers put more resources into insect control and harvesting (Pakistani farmers pick cotton multiple times). Area is expected to increase again in 2017/18, but the expansion will be limited as some farmers have shifted to long-duration sugarcane and increasingly popular corn for Pakistan’s growing livestock and poultry sectors — shifting well-irrigated productive land out of cotton.

Pakistan is a net importer of cotton, primarily due to strong demand for better grades of cotton for blending and for producing export-oriented quality textile products. The country’s’s imports during marketing year 2017/18 are likely to fall as domestic production improves. Imports are projected at 2.3 million 480 lb bales. Despite sizable imports, Pakistan continues to export cotton and 2017/18 exports are forecast at 365,000 480 lb bales.

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