Cabinet censures textile ministry for ignoring farmers

ISLAMABAD: Members of the cabinet have admonished the Ministry of Textile Industry for safeguarding the interest of industrial lobbies while ignoring cotton farmers.

They have suggested that administrative control of the cotton commissioner and the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC) should be handed over to the Ministry of National Food Security and Research from the textile ministry in order to protect the growers.

Farmers feel they have been left at the mercy of the textile ministry which is looking after the interests of textile millers and has managed to get duties reduced on cotton imports. In recent years, according to experts, cotton production has fallen short of the target in the absence of incentives for the farmers because of lower prices in the country.

In a cabinet meeting held in the second week of January, most of the members backed the food ministry’s stance, arguing that cotton production and related subjects should fall within the ministry’s purview.

To support their argument, they pointed out that the food ministry was already dealing with the areas of pesticides and research.

Noting the conflict of interest between the growers and industrialists, they found that the textile industry was making profits whereas the farmers were earning virtually nothing. Separately, the PCCC has failed to take measures to increase cotton production.

The Ministry of National Food Security recalled that in a meeting held on September 5, 2017, the prime minister had approved, in principle, the transfer of issues pertaining to the cotton crop and the PCCC to the food ministry.

The food ministry pointed out that it was responsible to look after all matters relating to research and extension services for various crops including cotton. Thus, the functions assigned to the PCCC fell within the domain of the food ministry. Furthermore, it said, in order to ensure integrated planning of the national cropping patterns and to conduct cohesive research and development work, the major cash crop should also be placed in the ministry’s fold.

In this regard, the food ministry had sent a summary to the prime minister for his approval. The premier directed that the matter should be placed before the cabinet for consideration.

To counter the arguments, the textile ministry secretary said cotton could not be separated from his ministry as 90% of the produce was consumed by the textile industry.

He emphasised that all funding was being provided by the textile industry through a levy of Rs50 per bale of cotton and no government financing was available. He cautioned that any change in the state of affairs would disturb the entire value chain.

The cabinet constituted a committee to resolve the issue.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2018.

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