Islamabad: Pakistan is spending $4 billion a year on cotton imports to support its textile industry, after erratic rainfall hurt growers and the country’s economy, officials said.
Bad weather has hit the cotton harvest, leaving the textile producers – who account for almost 9% of GDP – struggling as they face lack of supply and higher prices for imports, they said.
“We are importing cotton from India and some other countries to fulfil our demand, which has increased to 20% in just six months,” said Mehmood Aslam, operations manager at Fazal Group, one of the oldest and largest textile groups in Pakistan, with operations in cotton ginning, yarn and fabric manufacturing.
The quality of the cotton still available is also declining as a result of the poor conditions, he added.
“The local cotton contains a lot of trash and other contaminations due to the extreme weather conditions. Therefore its ginning yield has fallen and production costs have escalated,” Aslam said.
He said problems in sourcing good quality cotton and energy shortages in Pakistan had reduced his company’s exports of finished textiles from more than 100 shipping containers a month over much of the last two years to about 30 containers today.
He urged the government to offer reduction in sales tax to help the struggling industry.
Pakistan’s cotton production has fallen from a predicted 15.5 million bales this year to 10.9 million bales as a result of erratic rainfall, drought in some cotton-growing areas and poor seed quality, according to the Federal Committee on Agriculture, a department of the Ministry of Textile Industry.
Punjab produces around 85% of the country’s cotton, with Sindh growing much of the rest.
Khalid Abdullah, Cotton Commissioner and Vice President of the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee, said the country would spend around $4 billion on the import of cotton to meet its domestic demand this year.
Low prices for cotton last year helped drive down production, he said, adding weather extremes related to climate change, as well as insect attacks, also hit harvests.
The cotton industry provides employment to some 40% of the industrial workforce, according to a report published by the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan.
Pakistan also earns around $12 billion annually from the export of cotton and cotton products, it stated.