Pakistan: Punjab plans to double its cotton production from 8 million bales to 16 million bales by 2015 by ensuring availability of the best biotech cottonseeds and agriculture extension services, Punjab Chief Minister’s advisor Zulfiqar Khosa said on Wednesday.
“The government has paved way for introduction of biotech seeds by enacting bio safety laws,” Khosa said speaking at the fifth meeting of Asian Research and Development Network.
The three-day international conference of cotton research scientists has been jointly sponsored by the Government of Punjab, International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) and Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI). Fifty delegates from 15 countries are participating in the conference and would read their research papers.
Khosa said that enacting of relevant law has helped in approval of 8 local BT cotton varieties developed by domestic seed companies. He said Punjab government is also negotiating with Monsanto for introduction of latest biotech cottonseed varieties.
The head of ICAC research wing Dr Muhammad Rafiq Chaudhry said there has been an unusual increase in global cotton rates. He said last Friday cotton was quoted at $2.36 a pound.
Cotton crop needs more insecticides than other crops. This high use has been reduced by pest resistant BT cotton varieties. He said global pesticide use on cotton crop has declined by 26 per cent in past one decade. This year 62 per cent of all cotton cultivated in the world was from BT cottonseeds. “We could live without use of insecticides by developing required technology.”
CABI Director Dr Julie said that controlling primary pests and diseases has increased the incidence of secondary pests that needs attention of cotton scientists.
Punjab Secretary Agriculture Arif Nadeem said that many farmers were devastated due to adverse traits of uncertified BT cottonseeds.
Now, with the approval of tested BT cotton varieties, the agriculture extension department would be able to advise the farmers on use of each of the eight approved varieties.
Two million bales were lost annually due to curl leave virus, two million bales due to attack by other insects and one million bales owing to water shortage. Use of pest and virus resistant varieties would avert most of this damage, Nadeem said.
All Pakistan Textile Mills Association Chairman Gohar Ejaz deplored that the cotton production in Pakistan has declined from 70 kilogram per hectare in 1992 to 560 kilogram per hectare this year. Real boost to cotton productivity would come from research by local scientists, Gohar said.