Pakistan’s cotton imports will jump to a record high this season, as textile companies clamour for supplies to replace losses to the “severe flooding” which left one-third of the country under water.
Pakistan growers have lost 1.2m bales in 2022-23 cotton output to the inundations, the US Department of Agriculture’s Islamabad bureau said, cutting to 5.0m bales their production forecast for the country’s production this season, which started last month.
“Due to the flooding, 2022-23 projected harvested area is reduced 18.6% to 1.79m hectares,” the bureau said – a figure which would be the smallest in 52 years.
In the south eastern province of Sindh, “cotton fields in the districts of Sukkur, Khiarpur, Naushero Feroze, and Ghotki, which combined account for about 22% of cotton area, are inundated with flood waters,” the bureau said.
“Similar conditions exist in the Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur and Muzaffar Garh, and Mianwali districts of Punjab, which account for 9% of the cotton area.
“If the flood waters recede quickly, some production in these areas may recover, but substantial loss has already occurred.”
Cotton collection starts in August in Sindh, although begins around a month later in Punjab, meaning the potential for some fibre to have made it to safety before the flooding arrived.
However, a practice of leaving harvested cotton in-field for up to 10 days after picking “is exacerbating the damage caused by the flood waters”.
The loss in output will leave Pakistan requiring imports of 5.80m bales of cotton this season – an upgrade of 1.0m bales from the USDA’s official estimate, and the highest on record.
The forecast assumes the country’s cotton demand outlook remaining unchanged, at 10.93m bales in 2022-23, matching the all-time high.
“Given low domestic production and stable demand expectations, the 2022-23 import forecast is increased to 5.8m bales, which would be 29% higher than 2021-22,” the bureau said.
The bureau noted that the country’s “knit garments, sheets, bed wear, and cotton cloth exports continued to grow during the first half of 2022”.
Pakistan relies on the textile industry for more than 60% of its exports.
The comments follow an assessment late last week by the International Cotton Advisory Committee that Pakistan had lost about one-third of its cotton crop to the floods.
The organisation cut by 500,000 tonnes (2.3m bales) to 1.0m tonnes its forecast for Pakistan’s cotton output, saying that “sources on the ground are reporting a large reduction in the expected crop for the 2022-23 season”.
Earlier last week, Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister for planning, was reported as saying that 45% of Pakistan’s cotton crop has been washed away by the floods.