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Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) has urged the government to order an immediate crop loss assessment exercise to determine the actual reduction in the crops of cotton, maize and rice for announcing a suitable relief package for the affected growers. PKI President Khalid Khokhar and his fellows while talking to a group of journalists here on Friday claimed that recent cotton arrival figures are showing that cotton would remain 35 percent short of its target of production as compared to the last year in Punjab and 18 percent in Sindh.

They feared that production would remain around 8 million bales against the PM's set target of 15 million bales, meaning thereby a loss of 7 million bales or in money terms US$7 billion during the next year. It will also lead to losses to exporters and additional spending on importing the cotton, loss of edible oil extracted from cottonseed and its usage for animal feed.

Similarly, he said that this loss would add to the poverty in rural areas as a large number of women would be deprived of the livelihood they used to earn from cotton picking and in other phases of the crop. "Already cotton growers were deprived of Rs52 billion by the APTMA and other stakeholders by defying the efforts of the announcement of a support price," they added.

They further said that despite the recommendations of the National Assembly's Committee on Agriculture chaired by the NA Speaker on April 24, 2019 and a resolution passed by the legislative house on April 30, 2019 regarding early announcement of support price, Advisor Commerce & Textile, Razzaq Daud strongly opposed the proposal to gain enough time for the textile industry to dump imported cotton in the country. Around 4 million bales have already been imported as duty-free, they alleged.

Khalid Khokhar continued that they repeatedly told the government committees that cotton prices were below the cost of production since June 2019 and if support price was not announced the growers would not invest in spray and fertilizer and crop size will shrink. But the chair could not reach any decision up till now, the apprehension of the PKI proved today when arrivals dropped by 35 percent in Punjab and collectively by 27 percent in Pakistan.

He said that growers' loyalty to homeland can never be questioned as the land cannot be taken away to foreign banks. Pakistan's farming community had pinned a lot of hopes to PTI before it's coming into power but the PM is overshadowed by the advisors and never come out of his glass house to witness the growers' miseries. The maize, rice and cotton have been vanished because of climate change or faulty seeds of the seed companies.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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