“Revitalizing the cotton processing plant in Helmand is a welcoming step by the government that can encourage the farmers to grow cotton in their farmlands,” whispered a farmer Abdul Khaliq from the restive Nad Ali district.
The cotton-processing factory commonly known “Tasadi Bost Helmand” is the only industrial unit of its type in the troubled Helmand and the neighbouring Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces that has been badly damaged and shut down due to the prolonged war.
The government has rebuilt the factory recently to promote cotton cultivation in the militancy-battered province and provide job opportunities for the war-weary people.
The poppy-growing and militancy-plagued Helmand has long been regarded as the hotbed of the Taliban in Afghanistan as the armed group has been ruling parts of the province over the past more than a decade.
“If the government supports the farmers by providing fertilizer, seeds, and easy loans, and buying their products at a reasonable price, then the farmers would definitely replace poppy with cotton in their farmlands,” Khaliq told Xinhua recently.
Khaliq who has already begun cotton cultivation in his farmlands said that Helmand’s cotton was popular in the past, saying he is hopeful that the government could support the cotton growers in the province to revive its reputation.
Appreciating the revival of the cotton-processing plant, provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan has told reporters recently that some 300 workers would be hired by the factory in the first phase. In the meantime, thousands of farmers would be encouraged to cultivate cotton.
According to the governor, the factory will buy 4,000 tons of cotton from the farmers this year.
The factory, he said, will also produce cooking oil, soap and other goods, besides processing the soft fiber.
Countless factories and plants including textile, cement and sugar plants have been destroyed or badly damaged by the protracted war, and the government, according to the official, is committed to reviving all the industrial units elsewhere in the country.
“It is a good news for the farmers to plant cotton, I appreciate it, but water scarcity is an obstacle to develop cotton plantation,” another farmer Khairullah, 35, told Xinhua.
Khairullah also called on the government to improve irrigation system and provide enough water for the farmers to grow cotton.