Cotton harvests rise, hoped to become alternative to poppy in Kandahar

By: Hashemi

KANDAHAR: Farmers in the country’s southern Kandahar province are hopeful to harvest more cotton of about 2,000 tons this year and the officials hoped the products could be an alternative to poppy plant in the heavy opium depended province.
Like other provinces of the country, farmers after long years, used hundreds of acres of land to plant cotton in the country’s southern zones, hoping the white gold could be planted instead of the harmful poppy bushes.
The farmers planted cotton in 800 to 1000 acres of land only in the Daman and Dand districts of the province and harvested over 2,250 tons this year, showing up to 20 percent increase comparing to last year, according to a local source.
“The product is expected to rise to 40 percent in the future, if sufficient improved cottonseeds were distributed for the farmers,” Sayed Hafizullah Sayedi, the Provincial Agriculture Director told media.
Lack of water and high poppy prices in the past had been from the farmers and activists failure to develop more cottonseeds plantation in the province, according to Sayedi.
As the climate changed and the farmlands are fed enough with seasonal rainfalls as well as poppy production restricted and the opium price dropped across the country, the official hoped cotton production could highly be focused as an alternative crop in the heavily poppy grown province.
13 cotton processing factories are in Kandahar province and cottons from other southern provinces such as Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan are usually being brought to the province and exported to the neighboring Pakistan after processing.
Both local officials and farmers want the government to provide the cotton farmlands with chemical pesticide, better farm technology and efficient cotton processing in in the province.
They also call on the central government to enable a major state-run cotton factory to re-open in the southern province so that the farmers be encouraged in cotton plantation instead of poppy and the producers to easily process and export their products.
Afghanistan, reportedly, produces over 59,000 tons of cotton annually, but lack of cotton processing factories is still a challenge, as in the past there were at least seven textile manufacturing factories, mainly in Kabul, Parwan, Balkh, Kandahar and Baghlan provinces, which the country lost during the long years of war.
Cotton is also planted for producing cooking oil and laundry soap, which are locally used in the country’s many provinces.

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