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Newsline-International | February 2016

Pak’s low cotton output

The Government of Punjab in Pakistan has formed a committee to investigate the causes of low cotton production this year. The committee, which has already met once, evaluated the cotton crop situation and found that there was a declining trend in the production and yield during 2015 compared to the previous years. While the committee believed that weather remained hostile such as heavier rains and extreme heat, agriculture experts pointed towards a new growing threat to Pakistan’s strategic crop. Experts say Pink Bollworm has developed resistance to genetically modified (GM) cotton variety and damaging crops.

“The Pink Bollworm has developed resistance to the genetically modified (GM) cotton variety and damaged crops this year,” said an expert at the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC). The government replaced the indigenous cotton crop with imported genetically engineered cotton seed in 2005-06 to control pests particularly the Pink Bollworm. More than 80 per cent of all cotton sown in Pakistan today is Bt or GM cotton. Insecticides gene, CRY 1Ac, are inserted into the cotton seed that kills pests such as Pink Bollworm and other bollworms. However, in November 2014, government officials conceded that Pink Bollworm had developed resistance against the first generation of Bt cotton (Bolgard I) in an unexpectedly short time of three to four years. One of the reasons that bollworms developed resistance to the genetically modified cotton crop was the low level of toxins in the crop. Meanwhile, faced with a substantial drop in cotton production, Pakistan is banking on Gujarat to meet its requirement. The neighbouring country has so far imported over 13 lakh bales worth Rs 2,000 crore from India. Of this, Gujarat, the largest cotton-producing State, accounts for more than 7 lakh bales worth over Rs 1,000 crore. China, Bangladesh and Vietnam are the traditional cotton importers from Gujarat. However, this year Pakistan has emerged as the largest buyer, a development which has buoyed distressed cotton growers and exporters in Gujarat. Imports from Pakistan have helped exporters make up for the shortfall created by lower offtake from China, the biggest cotton importer in the world.

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