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June 28, 2020

No legal provisions to compensate crop damages from locusts

Business

June 28, 2020

LAHORE: There is no legal provision to cover losses inflicted by locust swarms on standing crops that are spreading over 62,000 acres in the Punjab.

The swarms of locust have been seen devastating vegetation in the country for over a year now. The Punjab, which is an agrarian economy, also happened to be at the receiving end when it comes to massive onslaught of locusts. In the early months of this year, locust attacks were spread to 29 districts out of total 36 administrative units.

Total damages officially reported so far stand at 62,546 acres of land or 2.6 percent out of total 2,402,539 cultivated acres of land in the province.

The provincial agriculture department has quantified major impact of locust assault on 14 districts. Bahawalpur district has emerged as the most adversely affected area in the province with 17,089 acres of land hit hard by locust plague, which is 10.8 percent of total 158,092 cultivated acres of the district.

Vehari district came in second place in terms of percentage of total cultivated area hit by locust, showing 6,199 acres or 9.9 percent of total 62,352 acres cultivated land followed by Dera Ghazi Khan having 1,164 or 8.7 percent of total 13,349 cultivated acres of land.

Fourth most affected district has been Bahawalnagar with 14,406 acres or six percent of total 239,148 acres cultivated area followed by Khanewal district showing 1,000 acres or 4.5 percent of 22,206 cultivated acres.

Multan is on the sixth position with 972 acres of crops damaged by locust out of total cultivated area of 32,464 acres followed by Bhakkar district showing 12,843 acres or 2.2 percent of total cultivated area of 590,630 acres.

Rahim Yar Khan district is on the eighth place with 3,588 acres or 1.7 percent damaged land out of total cultivated area of 212,850 acres followed by Muzaffargarh showing 627 acres of land or 1.1 percent out of 58,329 total cultivated acres of land.

In Khanewal, damages are to 1,000 acres, 4.5 percent of total cultivated area followed by Layyah district having 635 damaged acres or 0.5 percent out of total 138,010 acres cultivated area.

Locust swarms swallowed cotton crop planted on 22,970 acres in the province so far while miscellaneous crops standing on 35,346 acres of land were also spoiled by locust infestation. Other crops hit by locust invasion include fodder cultivated on 1,702 acres, orchards on 1,320 acres, Mung on 552 acres, sugarcane on 367 acres, peanut/sorghum sown on 289 acres of land.

A senior official of the provincial agriculture department said all preparations have been made to counter onslaught of locust in the province. Ample machinery, workforce and pesticides have been mobilised to spray 20,000 acres of land daily. He hoped that expected bigger invasion of locust coming from East Africa can best be dealt by airborne remedial measures, which is being made with the help of security forces. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said swarms of locust can be anything from under one square kilometres to several hundred square kilometres. There can be from 40 million to 80 million adult locusts in each square kilometre of a swarm.

Desert locusts can eat massive quantities of vegetation – wild plants, shrubs, trees and grass. These resources are critical for the health and survival of millions of people, who depend on them for meeting their food needs in addition to animals that also depend on them for forage.

Locusts steal food from people's mouths and from the livestock they depend on to survive. This can badly erode the food security of communities and leave people stripped of household assets like seeds or animals. An adult desert locust can consume roughly its own weight, about 2 grams, in food every day. A one square kilometre-sized swarm of 40 million desert locust could eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35 000 people. This is based on an individual eating an average of 2.3 kilogram of food per day, according to the US Department of Agriculture.