Pakistan has raised the issue of cotton subsidies by big cotton growing countries, particularly the United States and India, at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Pakistan’s Ambassador to the WTO Dr Tauqir Shah while addressing the special session on cotton at WTO in Geneva recently said problems of farmers in Pakistan and other developing countries cannot be resolved as long as poor farmers are made to compete with heavily subsidized cotton from major players, we call for a swift and speedy action which allows our cotton growers along with our textile industry to fairly compete into the world market, said.
Shah contended that cotton producing areas are among the poorest in Pakistan; most of cotton growers are small farmers; Pakistan’s average farm size is 2.6 hectors, and 96 per cent of its farms are less than 10 hectors.
The life of cotton farmers has been further complicated by climate change and extreme weather conditions, floods, heavy rains and droughts in some areas, after struggling for many years with adverse terms of trade and declining cotton prices, he said adding that this has resulted in 34 per cent reduction in cotton production. A direct effect is the negative growth in agriculture and the country missed their GDP growth target by 0.5 per cent due to cotton crises.
Shah argued domestic subsidies in cotton production in major cotton producing countries is a critical issue, resulting in an uneven level playing field for cotton producers worldwide, while citing that International Cotton Advisory Committee data. What is more worrying for Pakistan is that proportion of cotton produced through government assistance has increased in recent years.