ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan is forecast to reach record cotton production of nearly 15 million bales in the 2011/12 crop year, after farmers completed sowing on an area of over 8 million acres, industry officials said on Wednesday. Increased production of cotton, the main cash crop which shares 1.4 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), is necessary to achieve a target of 4.2 percent economic growth in the new financial year starting July 1. Growth in 2010/11 slipped to 2.4 percent, partly due to losses to the cotton crop following devastating floods in 2010 that reduced output to 11.70 million bales from an expected 14 million bales. "According to initial estimates, the area under cotton cultivation is up to 8.5 million acres. That should produce up to 15 million bales," said Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan. Higher domestic prices have encouraged farmers to grow more cotton, he told Reuters. Cotton spot-rates in Pakistan touched a peak of 14,000 rupees ($163) per 40 kg this season, because of short supplies and earlier, higher international prices. US cotton futures settled higher on Tuesday on commercial and investor buying. The key December cotton contract on ICE Futures U.S. rose 0.20 cents to finish at $1.3178 per lb, dealing from $1.2852 to $1.3208. Pakistan's spot-rates were quoted between 8,000 and 9,000 rupees per 40 kg early on Wednesday as the new crop started trickling in, Karachi-based trader Naseem Usman said. A senior food ministry official, citing week-old data, said cotton had been planted on nearly 8 million acres, slightly up from the last year, but less than what Mughal said. The official said he expected the output to rise with the use of genetically modified Bt cotton on nearly 90 percent of total cotton acreage. "We will easily achieve the target of 15 million bales, especially after the wider use of pest-resistance Bt cotton and other certified seeds," he said. But there have been pest attacks in some areas, which could spread if there are more rains or a heat wave, hurting output, industry officials said. Pakistan, the world's fourth-largest cotton producer, achieved record cotton production of 14.6 million bales in 2004/05, but output has fallen since then. Cotton and textile account for about two-thirds of the country's exports. Pakistan's total exports rose to a record $22.44 billion in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2010/11, compared with $17.50 billion in the same period the previous year, mainly because of higher cotton prices worldwide. Annual consumption fluctuates between 14 million bales and 16 million bales of 170 kg each, and the country often needs to import to meet the shortfall. Pakistan imported 1.55 million bales up to April this fiscal year.