Locusts, devouring the crops and livelihood in Pakistan

Farmers faced with the worst plague and scared of starving to death

Lahore, 25th May: Farmers across Pakistan are suffering the worst plague of locusts in recent history, which has caused billions of dollars in damage and led to fears of long-term food shortages.

The Pakistani government declared a national emergency this year after the locusts began to decimate winter crops. The first swarm came from the United Arab Emirates in mid-2019, and in the next few weeks time, a new infestation is expected to arrive from Iran.

A farmer in Balochistan reports that this is the worst ever situation they had seen. According to him, “I cultivated around 50 acres of cotton crops and all of them have been eaten and destroyed by locusts,” besides cotton, my other crops – onion, chili, and tomato – have been affected badly too. It is a loss of around 10m rupees [£51,000]. As a farmer, it will take years to recover from this loss.”

He said he had no means of dealing with locusts and that the government was in “deep slumber” about farmers’ plight. “The government is not doing anything. It’s a helpless situation,” he said.

Government prepares to tackle locust crisis amid COVID-19 outbreak

It is reported that in Sindh, the worst-hit province, all the green crops, such as wheat and mustard, were attacked and ruined by locusts.

Pakistan will incur losses of about £2bn in winter crops, such as wheat, and a further £2.3bn in the summer crops being planted now, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This will be economically devastating for a country where agriculture accounts for 20% of GDP and 65% of the population live and work in agricultural areas. Pakistan is already suffering from crippling inflation, which is now at a 12-year high, and the unprecedented economic burden imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to reports, this year the attack of locusts is ten times worse than the last year as the locust is attacking from all three sides. The locusts and their eggs have now covered 50,000 square kilometers of farmland and it is expected that they will infest more than 5m hectares. They are not just attacking Sindh province, but also the agricultural areas of Punjab and Balochistan.

Heavy rains in the Arabian Peninsula triggered explosive growth in the locust population, and they began causing problems in India, Pakistan, and a number of African countries last year. The second generation is 20 times bigger. Locusts move in swarms of up to 50 million, can travel 90 miles a day, and lay as many as 1,000 eggs per square meter of land.

Muhammad Akram Dashti, a senator from Balochistan, gave a speech in parliament in May 2019 urging the federal government to start preparing for the locust plague that had just emerged in his province. However, the federal government had ignored various requests to spray pesticides from the air, as the Sindh state government did not have the resources to do.

It’s the responsibility of the federal government to help farmers against such destruction, but the federal government didn’t take it seriously. Now it is too late and many people will starve.

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