Declining cotton production affects cotton-picker women’s daily wage

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By Muhammad Atif Ismail

MULTAN, Nov 22 (APP): Cotton is an important cash crop of Pakistan. About 20 million people, directly or indirectly are linked to the business of cotton, from cultivation to textile products and its exports. It has a major share in the country’s economy.

The crop is considered as white gold. However, the production of cotton is on decline with every passing year. The declining trend is not only inflicting damage to the country’s economy but also affecting the farmers and other people associated with its business.

Among the affected people, over five lakh poor cotton- pickers are women . Cotton picker women, almost all belonging to rural areas, are very much worried due to low production of cotton, decreasing cultivation area and lowering of their wages. The cotton picker women get wages on a daily basis against their work. However, their income is decreasing remarkably. Sakeena Bibi, a resident of rural area of District Vehari, told APP, she has decided to quit cotton picking due to low earning.
She recalled that she was picking cotton for over 40 years. In the past, she used to earn a handsome amount during the whole cotton season and managed to purchase required household articles. Now, the cotton production is shrinking and it is also affecting her income. She recalled that she used to pick nearly 60 kilograms of cotton in a day, during previous years.

Now, she is picking only 15 to 20 kilograms of cotton. About wage, she disclosed that Rs 500 were being
paid against 40 kilogramme cotton picking. Now, her wage reduced to Rs 200 to 250 per day which was insufficient to meet routine expenditures. Now, cotton picking was not attractive work, she remarked.
Nazia Bibi, another cotton picker woman, informed APP that she was picking cotton as she had no other option. “In case I find any other job, then I will quit cotton picking”, Nazia said. She stated that there was very much low production of cotton. Now, she could not earn a reasonable amount. In the past her income from cotton picking was sufficient. She used to purchase clothes for her kids, paid their school fees and also met some other expenditures of her home. Her income was a good financial support towards her husband, she maintained.

Cotton farmer Ameer Hamza also expressed concern over the declining production of the crop. Cotton is an important crop and the government should focus on its revival. According to PCGA report till November -1, 2020, only 3.45 million bales reached ginneries which is remarkably low. Now, in the ongoing season, extremely low production is being feared.

Ameer Hamza explained different causes of decline in cotton cultivation area and per acre production. He lamented that farmers were unable to find out quality seeds. Now, cotton is not a profitable crop.
The farmers cannot afford expenses on inputs. So, farmers are shifting their focus toward other crops.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the cultivation area of cotton was 2.689 hectares in 2010-11. Now, it has been reduced to 2.31 million hectares in the country. Similarly, it is decreasing with every passing year. The cultivation area in Punjab is 1.60 hectares, 0.64 hectares in Sindh, 0.01 hectares in KPK and 0.06 in Balochistan.

Known cotton scientist and Director Cotton Research Station Dr Sagheer Ahmed suggested different measures for revival of cotton. He stated that the issue of cotton decline should be taken up seriously. He advocated provision of compensation to farmers in case of low production due to climate changes. Similarly, there should be tight monitoring about the sale of cotton seed. Similarly, farmers should have easy access to quality pesticides in the markets. He proposed provision of subsidy on inputs especially fertilizers as it would not only help reduce cost of production but would also enhance cotton production. The government should spend a reasonable amount on promotion of advanced research on cotton seed.

Chaudhary Khalid, a local leader of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad proposed an announcement of support price for cotton as it will surely help promote white gold in the country. The farmers will spend on inputs accordingly and find handsome returns.