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Pakistan's cotton yields to soar as farmers pull out the stops

Cotton yields in Pakistan will soar this year, as the rising cotton price encourages farmers to increase inputs, US officials said.

The US Department of Agriculture's bureau in Islamabad boosted its forecast for cotton production, despite trimming its estimate of harvested area to the lowest level in three decades.

The bureau saw Pakistan's 2016-17 cotton production is forecast at 8.25m 480 lb bales, up 250,000 bales from the previous estimate, and up 18% year on year.

Insect management

"Despite reduced planted area, rising cotton prices are prompting farmers to more actively manage insects, resulting in higher expected yields compared to a year ago when low cotton prices prompted farmers to curb input costs," the bureau said.

Prices remained low at the time of planting this season, between May and July, prompted farmers to cut sown acres to their lowest levels since 1985.

The bureau saw harvested area this year at just 2.40m hectares, down from an official USDA estimate of 2.50m hectares, and well below the 2.80 harvested last year.

Stronger yields

But cotton prices have been booming, with the bureau reported seed cotton prices now standing at 37 cents a pound, up some 48% year on year.

So where last year farmers cut costs by reducing pesticide application, tanking yields, there is now a strong incentive to

"Consequently, while much will depend on how willing farmers are to spend on labour to conduct multiple pickings in the fall, yields are expected to improve," the bureau said.

Import upgrade

Based on the updated figures, the bureau forecasts cotton yields at 3.4 bales per hectare, compared to 2.5 bales per hectare in 2015-16, a 36% increase.

But despite the stronger production, with consumption remaining essentially flat at 10.33m bales, the bureau actually upgraded its forecast for imports by some 200,000 bales.

The reason is a downgrade to estimates of last season's imports, prompting a trim to 2016-17 opening stocks numbers, which were seen at a 15-year low.

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