Pakistan prepares for battle against crop-eating locusts
KARACHI: An impending locust attack on many farmers in southeastern Pakistan when summer cotton, sugar cane, and rice crops are sown and fruit and vegetables are ready to be picked poses a huge threat to the country.
“If the crops are eaten up by the locusts, we will have a dire food security issue on our hands,” said Zahid Bhurgri, a farmer from Mirpur Khas district in Sindh province.
“The price of flour and vegetables will sky-rocket,” making essential foods difficult for some to afford, added Bhurgri, who is also general secretary of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO) reports that farming losses from locusts may be as high as PKR 353 billion ($2.2 billion) this year for winter crops such as wheat and potatoes, and around PKR 464 billion for summer crops.
A May update from the FAO warned that containing and controlling desert locust infestation would be “imperative” amid the additional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health, livelihoods, food security, and nutrition for the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Pakistan.
Pakistan experienced its worst locusts attack since 1993 last year and the country was largely unprepared for that.
Farmers now have little faith that the government can help them battle a new wave of voracious insects that threaten their harvests – though officials have said substantial action has been taken.
“Neither the central, nor the provincial government is doing anything about it,” said Bhurgri, who grows vegetables, red chillies, cotton, and sugarcane on about 600 acres of land.