Last week, the Pakistan Cotton Ginners’ Association (PCGA) submitted budget proposals to the government, demanding a ‘bailout cum incentive oriented package.’ This comes as no surprise, since the annual cotton production target has been missed again and the area under cotton has also declined sharply (16%).

Over the last couple of years, Pakistan has now seen abysmally low cotton production. At present, the arrivals of 10.5 million bales – although an increase of over last year’s 9.7 million bales – is still massively short of the initial 14.1 million bale target that was revised down later to just 11 million bales. The textile economy has been suffering from shortage of raw material on top of all its other miseries.

The ginners have thus demanded a National Cotton Policy, though how this would tie in to the broader Agriculture Policy that Punjab is currently developing is uncertain. The development of such a policy would be a welcome move, though given the country’s track record, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

In one of our previous articles (‘Cotton crunch (II) – deeper issues,’ published May 06, 2016), we touched upon a little known policy called “Cotton Vision 2015,” which was mentioned in the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2006-07. Its goals included – inter alia – annual production of 20 million bales of cotton, and a yield of 1060 kg/ha (current yield being less than 700 kg/ha, as per USDA). So a cotton policy wouldn’t be unheard of, but its implementation would be!

The problem with policies such as these is they are short-term, ad-hoc, and devised for political point-scoring rather than actual implementation. Another case in point is the three-year STPF trade policies that never achieve their goals, or the textile policy itself. Hopefully, the Punjab Agricultural Policy will avoid these pitfalls, and if indeed there is going to be a National Cotton Policy, it should be developed in line with Punjab’s policy as well as in consultation with all the stakeholders.