In 2017 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia funded three BCI projects in Pakistan, with the aim of improving access to global cotton markets for Pakistani farmers. Under the project umbrella, the Better Cotton Initiative and Cotton Australia, the body for Australia’s cotton producers, collaborated on a new model of sharing cotton production best practices. The project sought to create an effective knowledge exchange between Australian and Pakistani farmers and to improve the global reputation of cotton.
As part of the project, in April this year, Dr. Shafiq Ahmad, BCI Country Manager Pakistan; Bilal Khan, a progressive cotton farmer from Pakistan and BCI Council Member; Dr. Saghir Ahmad, Director at the Cotton Research Institute in Multan, Pakistan; and Rajesh Kumar, a Better Cotton Producer Unit Manager from India, attended Cotton Australia’s annual farm tour.
Alongside representatives of Australian fashion and retail brands such as Country Road Group, Hanes, Jeanswest, RM Williams and Sportscraft, the group visited cotton farms, a cotton gin, a seed production facility, and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation. They also met with farmers, agronomists and consultants to discuss cotton production technology and whitefly management.
Australian farmers shared their knowledge on:
- Traditional cultivation vs. mechanised farming;
- Better crop management;
- Use of technology to increase sustainability in cotton production;
- Management of whitefly and other cotton pests;
- Cotton research and development; and
- Cotton seed production, processing and distribution.
Dr. Shafiq Ahmad believes there are many benefits to cross-country knowledge sharing projects. “This trip has opened up many new opportunities. We’ve gained valuable insights into more sustainable cotton production, crop management and pest management which we can take away and implement in Pakistan and India. This project has also opened up a new direction for cotton research which will lead to further collaboration between Pakistani and Australian scientists,” he said.
Bilal Khan commented, “I had a thoroughly educational and enjoyable visit to the Australian cotton belt. The sophistication of the technology used in Australia is extremely interesting. I would like to express my gratitude to Cotton Australia and BCI for making this trip possible. It will not be long before the benefits of this initiative are realised.”