Bangladesh produced 0.16 million bale fiber cotton in 2016-17 fiscal and the production of cotton is increasing every year, Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury told Parliament late on Sunday. According traders whatever cotton Bangladesh produces meets only around 3.0 per cent of the demand. To meet the growing demand of the garment industry, currently the government has to spend around $4.5 billion a year to import cotton. The Bangladeshi government has taken up a Tk 1.05 billion project to increase raw cotton production, as only 3 per cent of which is now collected from local producers. Bangladesh has also taken an initiative to cultivate Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) cotton or BT cotton to boost cotton production. However, talking about sufficient cotton production, the agriculture minister said “it is impossible to enhance significant amount of cotton production as per the requirement of the textile sector without hampering the food production.” “As the harmful pest ‘Bollworm’ is the main impediment in raising cotton production in the conventional method so, Bangladesh has initiated Biotechnology based BT cultivation to boost cotton production,” the minister said this replying to query. To this end, the Cotton Development Board (CDB) has set up different demonstration farm for introducing the BT cotton, she said, adding that after successful completion of the trial production initiative would be taken for extending the cultivation of the BT cotton through distribution it among the farmers. In addition to this, she said a project on ‘research development for developed variety cotton and its seed’ is now under process for getting approval to develop high-yielding and short-duration cotton variety. Executive Director of the Cotton Development Board Md Farid Uddin said they had already selected Barind areas of Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapai Nawabganj, where other crops cannot be produced, for cotton cultivation. “We can produce 1.0 million bales of cotton in 200,000 hectares of land,” he said, adding that this can save 10 per cent to 15 per cent import costs. Bangladesh is the third largest cotton importers in the world. Matia Chowdhury said the government has provided training to 60,000 farmers on modern cotton cultivation and set up 3,050 demonstration plots under a project for increasing cotton production the country. “We have undertaken various projects and programmes, including Expansion of Cotton Cultivation Project (Phase-1) at Taka 105 crore in the 2014-15 financial year, ” she told the parliament while replying to a question. The minister said cotton is the main raw material for textile industries and the country has to import cotton for meeting the demand of the textile industries. The country has 5,000 garment factories and 450 spinning mills, she added.