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After plaguing parts of Sindh, locusts hit Punjab’s cotton core

Business

July 5, 2019

LAHORE/KARACHI: After infesting over 15 talukas in Sindh, millions of dreaded desert locusts have now mounted a full-scale invasion in the core cotton zone of Punjab, threatening the standing crops, officials said on Thursday.

Huge swarms of locusts have started devastating cotton and others crops with local farmers calling the invasion the worst in last several decades. The most affected of areas is Kot Sabzal, located in the district of Rahim Yar Khan along Sindh border, with many villages blanketed by the insects.

Local farmers say they have no remedy in hand against the massive onslaught of locusts at the moment and if not stopped effectively and in time, these ravenous pests could eat the farmers out of house and home.

However, a senior official of Punjab Agriculture Department downplayed the locust invasion, saying a splinter group of large swarm already spread in various districts of Sindh province has been seen in patches in Kot Sabzal since Wednesday evening.

Claiming that teams of agriculture department were ready to deal with potential threat of locust, he said he had himself visited this area last week in anticipation of possible attack. The locusts was largely seen on uncultivated land in desert of Sindh province since last couple of weeks after damaging crops and orchards in Balochistan province.

Lately, its movement towards cropped area in Sindh province has raised alarm bells. In cropped area vehicle-mounted spray machines can work effectively as aerial spray proved counterproductive.

Ihsanul Haq, a resident of Rahim Yar Khan said that he had never seen such locust attack in his life and an agressive approach was needed to contain the attack. On the other hand, an official said a meeting was planned in Karachi where strategy to further strengthen efforts against the menace of locusts would be chalked out.

Meanwhile, Sindh Minister for Agriculture Muhammad Ismail Rahoo said the federal government has sent one plane and two field teams that are in action in Khairpur district only; however, "the affected area is way bigger and the operation is insufficient”.

The provincial minister said currently around 15 talukas were under locust invasion in the entire province and feared the plague could spread further if adequate action was not taken in time.

The federal department’s plane started spray operation from June 16, but then a technical fault grounded the crop-duster for one week. It needs to be noted that out of a fleet of six such agricultural aircraft of the DPP, five are non-functional.

Affected districts in Sindh include Khairpur, Sukkur, Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah), Sanghar, Matiari, Jamshoro, and Dadu.

Rahoo said Sindh government had set a budget aside for dealing with the locust threat and was even ready to hire private spray planes, but they were not available. The minister said the same plane had been involved in a crop-dusting operation in the province of Balochistan as well.

"The danger of locusts is likely to stay in Sindh till October to November,” the minister warned and asserted had Balochistan government acted soon enough, locusts would not have entered Sindh.

He, however, said these locusts had not affected the crops so far, but would certainly become devastating, if they got a chance to breed further. On the other hand growers have reported that locust swarms are moving towards mature cotton crop in Khairpur’s Nara, Mirwah and Kotdiji talukas. Swarms of these pests had also entered Thari Mirwah and Sobhodero talukas of Khairpur, they said, adding, the locusts also would prove dangerous for paddy, which was ready for planting in the fields.

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