Cash Crop Cotton Compound Losses – Journal

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Peasants struggling to pick the rest of the cotton crop in Matiari district. — Photo by Umair Ali

Successive periods of torrential rains in Sindh have been a disaster for the agricultural sector. The economic cost of the disaster would be in the billions if we judge by the value chain. Among summer crops, cotton is the most affected, banana and mango orchards have been damaged and vegetables, especially onions, have been washed away.

These rains are believed to be a repeat of 2011, when the rains triggered similar floods in lower Sind after the 2010 super floods which destroyed seven to eight districts in upper Sind due to a breach in the dyke of the Indus.

One or two pickings of cotton have been made in the early planting areas of Sindh. The downpour destroyed almost the entire crop in Sanghar, Naushahro Feroz, Khairpur, Nawabshah, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas, Matiari and Tando Mohammad Khan. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) says 2.082 million acres of cultivated area have been damaged in Sindh.

“I believe that 80% of the cotton crop was simply washed away and in terms of money, cotton crop losses will be no less than Rs 70 billion,” said Nadeem Shah, Sindh member of the Cotton and Pakistan Central Cotton Crop Assessment Committee. Committee of the Federal Ministry for Food Safety. He is from the rain-hit Matiari district in lower Sindh, which has no drainage system to carry away rainwater.

The income of cotton pickers, the national production of edible oil and animal feed are all victims of the deluges, as well as the textile industry.

“Cotton plants are submerged under massive amounts of water and are unlikely to survive. Once the sun makes its presence felt, it will blacken the plant. In some areas cotton plants are already blackened,” he said.

A visit to the rain-affected lower Sindh districts reveals that the rains which continued until the third week of August left the farming community and the inhabitants of the urban centers dry. This forced the Sindh government to declare 23 districts affected by the calamity.

There seems to be no likelihood that water will withdraw from the fields quickly and easily when rainwater stagnates. Irrigation managers and growers struggle to ensure the drainage of rainwater by diverting it from one end to the other under ad hoc arrangements to evacuate it through the canals of irrigation.

After a period of continued decline in the cotton crop, it has recently seen growth in Sindh, resulting in the production of 3.5 million bales in the 2021-22 season, compared to 1.8 million bales in 2020-21. It was grown on 539,000 ha against the seeding target of 640,000 ha. Losses from commercial cotton cultivation mean economic losses for agricultural labor as well as cotton pickers. Pickers, mostly women, will lose an important source of seasonal income.

Some pickings this season were made before the rains. The Sindh Department of Agriculture assesses the losses of the remaining cotton crop at almost 100%. A delay in the drying up of agricultural land will have serious consequences for the sensitive cultivation of cotton. Standing water blackens the crop. Those who still have a clean pick will be among the luckiest. They would receive 10,000 rupees plus the fare for 40 kg.

Widespread damage to cotton cultivation will certainly undermine the entire value chain. The phutti seeds will be lost in addition to the harvest. The seed is an edible source of domestic production. Its waste (cake) is a source of livestock feed.

Cottonseed or benola is a vital source of edible production at the national level. According to the former Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Dr. Yusuf Zafar, cottonseed provides 70% of the total national edible oil production.

“Only 30% of Pakistan’s edible oil is produced domestically and the rest is imported. Of national production, 70% is made from cotton seeds. It is alarming as the import bill for food and edible oils continues to rise,” says Mr. Zafar.

He said estimates showed that recent damage, including losses to Balochistan’s organic cotton crop, indicate that around 6-7 million bales will need to be imported, at a cost of $6-7 billion.

Devastating rains undermined the economic well-being of the rural community and inflicted mental suffering and psychological trauma. Farmers will continue to prepare for the challenges of the upcoming Rabi planting season, provided water recedes from the fields. About 89,622 head of cattle perished according to the PMDA situation report of August 24 due to the rains. About 84,783 out of 89,622 head of cattle perished in upper Sindh Kashmore district.

The cattle herds are mainly managed by the peasantry, who have a 50-50 share of the agricultural land with the producers. The downpour displaced this peasantry. They moved to makeshift tents by the roadside with their own animals, including cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep.

Their villages, located on farmland, were flooded and their thatched straw houses collapsed. Their cattle are now exposed to disease. Livestock carcasses were seen on the Miprukrhas-Jhuddo road which was badly hit by the overflow of the canal.

Around 310,039 acres in Sanghar – the cradle of cotton production in Sindh – followed by 247,659 acres in Shaheed Benazirabad and 247,607 acres in Naushahro Feroz districts were damaged. Khairpur district reported agricultural damage of 214,626 acres resulting in the loss of its date palm crop during the July monsoon rains.

Of the vegetables, the onion crop is lost. It was forming bulbs but fell prey to the rains. Sindh accounts for half of the country’s total onion production. The same goes for peppers. Its required area has not been reached due to lack of water, said a chilli grower Karamullah Saand from Mirpurkhas.

Irrigation authorities are struggling to cope with the situation triggered by recent rains. All drawdown calls, 14 in all, from the three Sindh dams remained closed due to the Indus River flood situation. The Indus has remained in high flood at the Guddu and Sukkur dams since August 23 until this article was written on Friday. The upstream and downstream flows at both dams remained the same.

Farmland was under water until August 27 in lower Sindh. If the drying of agricultural land is not carried out in a timely manner, it may adversely affect the sowing of wheat. The wheat harvest is already facing problems. Sindh was unable to meet the supply target of 1.4 million tons this year. Sindh food officials are said to have withdrawn the 2021-22 crop from small and medium growers to meet the supply target, leaving them without seeds to use for cultivation this year. It would embarrass them.

Posted in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, August 29, 2022

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