Surging locust attacks pose great threat to Pakistan’s agriculture, food security

Photo taken on May 8, 2020 shows a man holding a locust in southern Pakistan's Hyderabad. (Xinhua/Stringer)

“We are spraying but they (locusts) keep moving here and there to eat and remain in the same area,” said Jaabar Khan, a young farmer. He called on authorities to arrange an extensive spray to control the insect which have been wreaking havoc on crops across Pakistan since last year.

by Jamil Bhatti

(Xinhua) — While the Pakistani government and mainly the urban population are struggling against the speedily spreading COVID-19, farmers in the country’s main food-producing pockets have been haunted by a plague of locust swarms which are sweeping green fields with their devastating instinct to eat heavily.

Jaabar Khan, a farmer in Pakistan’s eastern district of Chakwal, was spraying his fields helplessly with his manual backpack sprayer machine, trying to kill locusts which had damaged over 20 percent of his green gram crop in one-night time posing a big issue to his income.

The 21-year-old young man told Xinhua that the locust swarm triggered panic among villagers as their crop was fine the previous evening but a lot of leaves had been eaten up a day later. They feared that if the situation prevails it would finish all cash crops, animals’ fodders and fruits like it did with wheat crop in southern Sindh province.

Photo taken on May 8, 2020 shows locusts swarming over southern Pakistan‘s Hyderabad. (Xinhua/Stringer)

“Last night, we sprayed and it had little result, then we repeated in the morning and it is a little effective. We are spraying but they keep moving here and there to eat and remain in the same area,” said the young farmer, requesting the local agriculture department to arrange an extensive spray to control the insect which has been playing havoc with crops across Pakistan since last year.

The desert locust plague affected Pakistan’s southern Sindh province last year before moving to the rest parts of the country. Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security and Plant Protection and other departments all came up with a response to the fly attacks.

Assistant Director of Agriculture Pest Warning in Chakwal Muhammad Riaz told Xinhua that the swarm scattered in two groups had affected around 400 acres crops in less than 48 hours, posing a big threat to crops in the area.

“It is a prominent threat and it has spread like a virus because it has already reached to 15 districts in Punjab province. Another dangerous thing is that now the temperature is increasing and their eggs will be hatched and their population will rise manifolds,” said the official.

According to the country’s food security ministry, the locusts has imposed a loss of 15 percent to the winter-sown crops last year amounting to at least 100 billion rupees (some 625.7 million U.S. dollars), with fears that the damage would be huge if the next generation hatched.

Photo taken on May 8, 2020 shows locusts swarming over southern Pakistan’s Hyderabad. (Xinhua/Stringer)

In a recent report, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has warned of a huge level locust invasion in Pakistan if it is not controlled efficiently because locust breeding is taking place at 38 percent of the country’s total area supported by suitable weather.

The report added that the locust attacks could cause 817 billion rupees (about 5.1 billion U.S. dollars) loss to Pakistan’s agriculture production in 2020, which would turn obnoxious to its fragile economy.

Earlier in January, the Pakistani government imposed a national emergency on locust control.

On Wednesday, the National Disaster Management Authority said that the department has planned to spray 500,000 hector land because the numbers of locusts are increasing earlier and speedily which is an alarming factor.

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