Pakistan, the world’s fourth largest cotton-grower, is set to introduce genetically modified Bt Cotton to sharply raise its production, a move that could enable it to compete with India, the biggest cotton exporter in Asia after China.
The country signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with crop biotech firm Monsanto on April 10.
Though among the top five cotton producers, Pakistan trails behind India, which switched to Bt cotton in 2002.
The neighbouring country relies on imports of over 2 million bales. A bale of cotton is about 170 kg.
“Monsanto plans to introduce Bollgard-II cotton technology (in Pakistan), undoubtedly the most studied cotton technology globally,” a Monsanto spokesperson told Hindustan Times.
The MoU provides for a “framework to continue discussions focused on introducing Bt cotton in Pakistan”, the spokesperson said.
Pakistan aims to boost production, aiming 20 million bales by 2015 under the “Cotton Vision 2015 Targets” unveiled this year.
India’s estimated cotton production during 2009-10, according to the government’s second of the quarterly advance estimates, is pegged at 22 million bales.
India grows Bt cotton in 9 states in about 80 lakh hectares, which helped raise yields by 31%, according to a farm ministry reply to a Parliament query.
Pakistan’s Cotton Vision 2015 forecasts various options, including transgenic crops, to reach “production levels of 20.7 million bales by 2015”, by adding 25,000 acres of cotton areas annually, along with 5 per cent growth in per hectare yield.
Higher yields could enable Pakistan to contribute to the international market in three to four years’ time, an industry source said.