On the one hand, textile sector exports continue to rise, while on the other, the problem of reduced cotton production owing to various factors has gotten worse in recent years. It is also regrettable that Pakistan continues to export cotton, cotton yarn, and grey cloth despite the raw material deficit the textile industry is currently experiencing. The textile sector is the backbone of the Pakistani economy, and the cotton crop is its major artery. As a result, whenever there is a disruption or reduction in the supply of cotton, the textile industry begins to shut down automatically. The current floods have exacerbated the issue, as the cotton crop grown on more than 1.45 lakh hectares in Sindh has been completely destroyed, and the crop that has survived the inundation is of poor quality. In this context, the textile industry, particularly the export sector, has frequently urged the government to take prompt action to address the problem of cotton scarcity before it worsens. The main reason for the fall in cotton production in Pakistan is an increase in the development of sugar mills in specific regions and the planting of sugarcane rather than cotton. Thirty-one of Punjab’s 45 sugar mills are located in restricted districts. The road to cotton recovery lies in research and in this regard, agricultural universities should focus on launching research initiatives with other countries to develop hybrid cotton seeds that can endure climate change while producing high yields. It is conceivable to boost cotton output and quality if such seed preparation is made available to farmers at a reduced cost after testing, which will be advantageous to both the farmer and the industry.
An immediate solution to this quandary would be for the Pakistani government to relax the ban on cotton and thread imports from India. Textile exporters have already submitted this concept to the government at a number of forums, but the lack of approval has left industry circles dissatisfied and apprehensive. Imported polyester yarn prices have also climbed by more than 50%, exacerbating the textile industry’s woes. Cotton and its manufactured commodities account for 55 to 60 per cent of Pakistan’s total exports, according to government estimates, requiring more than 1.5 million bales of cotton each year.
Cotton production in the country was expected to reach 7.5 million bales this year, but due to floods that completely wrecked the cotton crop in Sindh and severely damaged the crop in Punjab, the sector is facing a 6-million-bale shortage. To meet demand, the textile industry is currently forced to import cotton from Central Asia, Brazil, America, and Africa, despite the fact that cotton is abundant in India. Not only is the cost of importing cotton from other countries higher in Pakistan than in India, but the imported cotton also takes two to three months to arrive in Pakistan. Importing cotton or yarn from India, on the other hand, is not only less expensive but also possible.