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Cotton output seen sharply down from bad weather


PAKISTAN'S cotton output in the 2005/06 crop year will likely fall at least 12 per cent to below 13 million bales because of unfavourable weather, a government official said Wednesday.
Pakistan produced 14.8 million bales of cotton in the previous crop year.
The government originally forecast production at around 15 million bales this season, but the crop has been hit by a devastating flood that swept across parts of the main growing province of Punjab in September as well as pests, dealers said.
"We have scaled down our estimate to 12.72 million bales after the flood swept away the standing crop on 300,000 to 350,000 acres of land," Qadir Bux Baluch, cotton commissioner at Pakistan's Agriculture Ministry, said.
The provinces have given a rough estimate of over 12.7 million bales, but the figure should increase slightly when the final estimates become available, he said.
Farmers in the main cotton belt of central Punjab said they expected production figures to be as low as 12.5 million bales.
Pakistan fixed what the farmers and officials had considered a very ambitious target of 15 million bales in May, almost at par with the 14.8 million bales achieved in 2004/05.
Agriculture officials earlier estimated that Pakistan would plant cotton on 3.22 million hectares. But the flood in September damaged over 10 per cent of the total area planted.
"It is sure we will not have a bumper crop as early estimates had assumed a higher yield in Sindh and a larger acreage sown in Punjab," said Musavir Ali, a farmer in Sadiqabad, a town in southern Punjab.
The average price for 40 kg of ex-farm cotton remained at 1,100 rupees, compared with 990 rupees in the last season, they said.
"More serious than the extent of damage was the reduction in quality because of pest attack," said Naseem Usman, a Karachi- based dealer. "Staple length has been affected by the virus, resulting in a shortfall of quality cotton."
Cotton and textiles account for around two thirds of Pakistan's export earnings and a healthy cotton crop is vital to Pakistan's economic growth prospects, forecast at more than 7.0 per cent this year.
Pakistan expects domestic consumption of more than 15 million bales in the season that starts in July, in line with recent years.
Despite being the world's fourth-largest cotton producer, Pakistan annually imports around 2.0 million bales of high-grade cotton to meet growing demand from local textile mills.