GENET archive


REGULATION & PLANTS: Law required for BT cotton production in Pakistan

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SOURCE: The News International, Pakistan

AUTHOR: Mansoor Ahmad


DATE:   09.08.2007

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LAHORE: Absence of contamination-free cotton, long-staple varieties and stagnant production have plagued the local textile industry. On the other hand, neighbouring India has introduced quality cotton varieties and increased production by 46 per cent during the past five years.

The absence of long-staple cotton varieties, short production and high ratio of contaminants have added to the woes of the textile industry, which pays import parity price compared with export parity price paid by the textile industries of India and China.

Pakistan is the fourth largest producer of cotton in the world and the third biggest consumer. Cotton production has not kept pace with growth in the textile sector.

The country produces short-staple variety of cotton suitable for manufacturing coarse yarn from which low value added textile products can be produced. For fine count yarn, the local industry mainly depends on Puma cotton imported from the US.

Besides Puma cotton, the country needs to import short-staple cotton as well as the local production of around 13 million bales falls short of demand by three million bales.

Pakistan’s closest competitor in the textile trade is India, which produces both short and long-staple varieties. India is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world after the US. It has achieved a rapid advance in production since 2000-01 when per hectare yield stood at 270 kg compared to per hectare yield of 614 kg in Pakistan.

The area under cotton cultivation in India at that time was around 8.9 million hectares compared with three million hectares in Pakistan. India produced three to four million bales higher than what Pakistan produced.

As India introduced BT cotton at the start of this century, its per acre yield and staple quality started improving. From cotton sown over nine million hectares in 2005-06, India obtained 24.4 million bales compared with 13 million bales of cotton Pakistan achieved from 3.2 million hectares.

India’s cotton production increased by over seven million bales from the same acreage while Pakistan saw a slight decline in output from a little higher acreage.

It is interesting to note that India now cultivates BT cotton over 3.8 million hectares, which is higher than the cotton-sown area of Pakistan. All the increase in cotton production has been achieved due to drought and disease-resistant BT cotton varieties of long staple.

The cumulative increase in cotton yield per hectare in India during the past five years came to 46 per cent or 467 kg per hectare. Pakistan’s per hectare cotton yield inched up from 614 kg to 684 kg in 2005-06.

The biotech cotton has provided an additional income of $463 to the Indian farmers. India has announced all regulations required for the protection of breeders’ rights. It enacted a strong bio-safety law before the introduction of BT cotton.

Pakistani scientists at the National Institute of Bio-Tech Engineering have developed and tested a few BT cotton varieties, but are waiting for a proper legislation by the government before these varieties could be introduced on a large scale.

The government has failed to introduce a bio-safety law, seed act and intellectual property rights of seed breeders required to introduce BT cotton in the country.

It is learnt that after more than a year the laws have been vetted by the law ministry and are awaiting approval of the cabinet before being presented for legislation in the National Assembly.

The scientists at the institute have developed a BT cotton seed called ’NIBGE-115’, which is drought-tolerant, Burewala virus-tolerant, has a diverse genetic base and small to medium-sized leaves.

They have filed a case for commercialisation of their BT cotton variety ’IR-Fh-901’, which is virus-tolerant, salinity-tolerant, has long staple and pest-resistant. These varieties minimise the use of pesticides to one-tenth of the present level, which would lower the cost of production of the farmers and save people from the poisonous effects of pesticides.



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