ISLAMABAD: The ministry of food security and research on Thursday briefed the National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security that over Rs500 million had been allocated to control the attack of desert locust in areas of Sindh and Balochistan, and 100,000 tonnes of pesticide would be imported for this purpose.
National Food Security and Research Secretary Hashim Popalzai briefed the committee on the measures being taken by the federal government to control the desert locust in the two provinces. Aircraft were being used for aerial spray on areas where desert locust was concentrating. He informed the committee that locusts had laid eggs in the affected areas and it was expected that the larvae would remain there for two to three years.
According to the ministry, the control teams of the Department of Plant Protection had treated an area of 131,130 hectares out of which 5,000 hectares had been treated by aerial means in Sindh and Balochistan by spraying 115,455 litres of pesticides so far, while the control operation was still in progress in all the infested areas.
The department also carried out aerial spray operation in district Benazirabad (Nawabshah) against the locust adults and its nymph in an area of 1000 hectares till November 20. One more Beaver aircraft would be deployed for effective aerial operation in Sindh.
Sufficient stock of pesticide was available with the department that is procuring 100,000 liters of pesticide Malathion, and an action plan has been chalked out for better and effective desert locust management.
As per the desert locust update of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the locust will migrate towards the coastal areas of Balochistan, and the department has made an action plan to start early desert locust survey operations in Balochistan to have strict watch over any desert locust activity. The plant protection department is fully geared to deploy its aircraft in Balochistan for aerial control operation if required.
The issue of tomato, the daily use vegetable the price of which crossed Rs300 per kg in the recent weeks, was heatedly debated by the committee members. Secretary Popalzai assured the committee that prices of tomato would be normalised very soon when tomato crop from Sindh would hit the market. The import of tomato from Iran was allowed for a period of four weeks to stabilise the market.
The committee meeting, chaired by Rao Ajmal Khan, recommended that the top officials of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, Passco and Utility Stores Corporation should devise modalities for the procurement of essential food items directly from the farmers in the country.
The committee also recommended that the deputy commissioner of Islamabad should be invited to brief it over the progress of the ‘durst daam’ (correct price) application, which was recently launched in the federal capital for marketing and provision of the food items at the door steps.
The food security secretary explained to the committee that the government was unable to give tax exemption to the Utility Stores Corporation in view of the IMF conditions. The USC officials informed the committee that the government had imposed a 1.5 per cent tax on USC. Contrary to the past practice when USC was buying commodities direct from farmers, the corporation is now not allowed to procure directly in view of PPRA rules.
The representatives of the Millat and Al-Ghazi tractor plants apprised the standing committee that three tractor manufacturing companies were presently operating in the country. The Engineering Development Board (EDB) is in process of adoption of WP-29 vehicle regulation which would internationally standardise the Pakistani tractor manufacturing units.
The committee decided to visit the site office of Millat Tractors to practically examine the process adopted for tractor manufacturing in near future.
Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2019