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Ghotki farmers switch back to cotton after paddy

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KARACHI: Ghotki has again returned to cotton sowing after growing paddy over a large area last year, which has affected its soil due to water logging and salinity.

“Paddy was not as lucrative so we decided to go for cotton,” said a grower. Besides, the government had once again banned paddy cultivation, he said.

Paddy cultivation is illegal on the left bank of Guddu and Sukkur barrages. “In order to cultivate paddy crop, growers have to seek permission from some departments including agriculture, irrigation and road transport,” another grower said.

Sindh Abadgar Board President Abdul Majeed Nizamani told The News an increase in the paddy crop in Ghotki, the second largest cotton belt of Sindh after Sanghar, was dangerous for the economy of the province. He said more than 250,000 acres of Rohri, Khairpur, Obauro, Panno Aqil and Ghotki are considered dry crop land, which should be used for cotton and wheat only.

Sowing of cotton is increasing in lower Sindh including Thatta, Badin, Umerkot and Mirpurkhas, the areas where the crop was never cultivated before. But cotton sowing has decreased in Ghotki since last year.

In 2006, Ghotki cultivated around 110,000 acres with cotton, producing around 0.5 million bales. However, last year cultivation declined by nearly 10,000 acres and 50,000 bales.

Since paddy cultivation is illegal in the district, official data is not reliable, yet the data of the Sindh Agriculture Department shows more than 8,500 acres in Ghotki was sown with paddy last year.

Nizamani said ecological change has pushed for an increase in cultivation of paddy in the cotton belt, which was not good for Sindh. “Cotton must be cultivated because of shortage of water in Sindh.”

Last year, prices of rice went very high, resulting in an increase in the paddy crop. After a huge decline in prices this year, analysts are of the view that paddy cultivation would return to normal next year.

Growers say there was no timely payment for sugarcane last year, prompting cane growers to switch to paddy. Paddy’s original belt in Sindh includes Larkana, Jacobabad, Shikarpur and some parts of Dadu district in Upper Sindh and Badin and Thatta in lower Sindh.

Sukkur barrage’s left bank canals namely Rohri canal, Naro canal, Khairpur East and Khairpur West are exclusively designed for cotton and wheat crops.

Nizamani urged growers to concentrate on less water consuming crops like oil seeds, sunflower and cotton. 65 per cent of the GDP comes from cotton, while wheat is a necessity of life and needed for food security. Cultivation of edible oil crops would save more than Rs52 billion of the national exchequer in terms of oil import. The actual import of edible oil is more than $1 billion, said Nizamani.

Rice canal is exclusively designed for the rice belt. However, growers of Pat feeder take water on force to grow paddy, said a source in the Irrigation Department.

Nizamani said where there is water there is paddy. Some parts of the tail are drying up due to lack of water, while some are over logging with water, making those areas more useful for paddy cultivation.

Ghotki district is not only famous for cotton and wheat only, but also for orchards. Mangoes, dates, bananas are cultivated on a large area, which is also under threat, said Shujauddin Shah, a date farm owner from Ghokti.

Sindh Chamber of Agriculture Chairman Qamar Zaman Shah said Ghotki’s land was suitable for cotton, as it had no water logging and salinity, adding that why growers moved last year towards paddy was beyond his understanding.


 Courtesy: The News


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