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May 27, 2020

New wave of locusts raises fear for summer crops in Punjab

May 27, 2020

LAHORE/KARACHI: A massive locust invasion has damaged thousands of hectares of crops and orchards in central and southern Punjab, farmers said on Tuesday, with some growers’ fear of extensive crop losses if authorities fail to curb fast-spreading swarms.

“This menace has ruined cotton crop, maize, sesame seeds, mung bean, fodders, and there has been considerable damage to the mango orchards,” Khalid Mehmood Khokhar, president, Pakistan Kissan Itehad said. “If it continues unchecked it will lead us to a famine like situation in the country.”

Khokhar said farmers “had been shaking government for the timely locust control for the last eight months, when it first appeared and later moved to desserts in India”.

“The department of Plant Protection and the provincial government had not done enough, while the federal government also failed to release funds for aircraft or hiring of human resource to the combat this pest during the last year or so,” he added.

Farmers said cotton crop, planted on merely a small acreage due to shortage of seed and its poor quality, has been eaten up by the locusts and farmers have no seed left for replanting or filling the gap.

Similarly, other Kharif crops like sesame, maize, pulses, and guara all have been damaged.

“We condemn the lethargic attitude of the government towards this issue which could damage the economy and food security many times more than the coronavirus and their playing meeting –meeting,” the farmers body said.

Meanwhile, Sindh Agriculture Minister, Ismail Rahoo said swarms of locusts that were currently on the rampage in the province, had so far devastated many districts of Sindh province and pose the risk of dealing kharif crops losses worth around Rs451 billion.

“Locust can completely damage crops in 10 districts of the province including seven desert districts and can eat up to 70 percent budget of Sindh province,” Rahoo said in a statement.

The minister said Sindh government sprayed pesticide on locusts even on the Eid day, while federal government had not started any aerial spray yet.

“On the second day of Eid, teams of Sindh Agriculture Department sprayed 1,408 acres of locust-affected areas of Khairpur, Sanghar, Shaheed Benazirabad, Kahmore Kandhkot, Dadu, Qambar Shahdadkot, Matiari, Jamshoro, Hyderabad, Tharparkar and Badin districts,” Rahoo said.

He said currently huge swarms were entering Sindh and Southern Punjab from Balochistan.

Criticising federal government, Rahoo said that locust was a major issue, but federal government was not paying any attention to it.

Due to locust attacks, the country would face drought like situation and food security issues, Rahoo said.

On the other hand, Sindh Chamber of Agriculture has announced to protest over locust issue by staging demonstrations at district headquarters. The chamber also threatened to close National Highway and Indus Highway in the third phase of their protest.

Secretary General Sindh Chamber of Agriculture Zahid Bhurgri said the only option to combat locust was aerial spray, but federal government was not serious towards it.

Bhurgri said that locust has resulted in losses of billions of rupees to the growers. He said the chamber had written letter to the federal government but did not get any response.