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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Pakistan reaps bumper cotton harvest
Cotton picking
Cotton growing is less water intensive than rice or sugar cane.
Pakistan has comfortably exceeded its target for cotton production in the 2001-02 crop year, officials have said.

Production of 10.6 million bales was recorded in the year, 22% up on the 8.66 million-bale target, a senior food and agriculture ministry official said.

One of the main reasons for the bumper crop was a drought. This persuaded many farmers to plant cotton instead of rice.

The figures also provided some vindication of government policy, which is to encourage planting of less water-intensive crops such as cotton and wheat rather than traditional favourites rice and sugar cane.

Caution

The right bank of the Indus river and the south of Punjab province were two mainly rice-growing areas where many farmers had been persuaded to switch to cotton, the official said.

He said the government had also, for the first time, promoted cotton growing on 41,000 hectares in the southwest of Baluchistan province.

Shafi Niaz, adviser to President Musharraf on food and agriculture, cautioned against too much optimism over the crop figures.

He said targets had been set very low in expectation of very severe water shortages.

In the event, water shortages had not been as bad as anticipated.

The government said the area under cotton would drop to 2.9 million hectares in 2002-03 from this year's 3.125 million hectares because of more water shortages.

Production would dip 6% to 10.07 million bales.

The area under rice is set in 2002-03 to decline 11% from 2.375 million hectares this year, it said.

See also:

11 Apr 02 | Business
Pakistan receives more IMF money
03 Apr 02 | Business
Pakistan tea traders seek duty cut
19 Mar 02 | Business
Pakistan sees cash inflow
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