Locusts have attacked cotton fields in areas ranging from Ghotki to Khanpur Mehar, sparking fears that the total production of the country may fall further after floods damaged two million bales earlier, analysts said.
Khanpur Mehar, an area 30-35 kilometres from the Indian border, was expected to produce between 70,000 and 80,000 bales, but the insect attack will reduce output from the area. Other areas in the belt were also expected to produce between 55,000 and 60,000 bales.
“About 50 per cent of the crop has been affected by green locust attack on the cotton belt from Ghotki to Khanpur Mehr,” said Shakil Ahmed, a cotton analyst. “To contain the damage, the fields have been sprayed with insecticides,” he added.
Reports say that recent floods have already damaged two million bales of cotton, reducing the production target from 14.11 million bales to around 12 million bales. Total consumption of the country is estimated at 16 million bales which will prompt the need for imports.
“Cotton crops sown in Khanpur Mehar, Rajanpur and Layyah have been attacked by pests,” said Ayub Usman, a cotton dealer in Faisalabad. Insecticides are being sprayed to restrict the insects’ damage, he said. The crop shortfall have sent cotton prices soaring in the domestic market with the spot price of cotton touching Rs7,250 per maund (37.324 kg) on Tuesday. In comparison, prices stood at Rs6,400 per maund about two weeks ago, indicating a surge of 13 per cent. In the open market, prices went as high as Rs7,500 per maund.
Ahmed also said that India has stopped its export of cotton to Pakistan, putting in jeopardy contracts for around 550,000 bales that have already been agreed by traders of the two sides. This season, India is expected to produce a bumper crop of 32 million bales.
In the New York Cotton Exchange (NYCE), December future contracts rose to $1.2 per pound on Monday compared to 98.79 cents per pound on Friday, driven by heavy purchases by China. However, Ahmed expected prices in the domestic and international markets to drop in coming days. The domestic market will witness a correction and prices will fall to around Rs7,000 per maund in the open market, he said.
The Express Tribune,