ISLAMABAD: China is sending a team of technical experts to Pakistan to deliberate on the aerial management of locust swarms in the country.
The locust swarm invaded the country last year and has devastated the cotton crop in the last planting season and is already threatening the country’s wheat crop.
The swarm arrived last summer, but has grown to threatening proportions since November 2019 when the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued a warning that the swarm has started to leave its reproducing grounds in the deserts from Cholistan to Tharparkar.
The federal government has declared an emergency this month but is struggling to figure out a robust response.
In this regard, Minister for National Food Security and Research Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar on Tuesday met with Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing and underscored the urgent need of aerial support along with pesticides to contain the breeding of locusts in vulnerable areas.
The envoy assured of full support and to consider supply of pesticides and spraying equipment to Pakistan as an emergency project.
A senior official of the food security ministry told Dawn that the Chinese technical experts’ delegation will arrive in Islamabad on Sunday to start evaluation of the locust situation. Besides discussions with the ministry officials and Pakistani experts, the Chinese team will also visit locust affected areas in the provinces.
During the meeting, Bakhtyar underlined the importance of measures taken by neighbouring countries to control locust swarms.
The Chinese envoy said that China is interested in increasing its import of agricultural products from Pakistan, including onion, potato and meat. In this regard, China wants to ease the export of such products from Pakistan before the high-level visit which is expected in May, he added.
Minister Bakhtyar welcomed the Chinese interest in the import of agricultural products from Pakistan. He also acknowledged the pro-activeness of China to support Pakistan on the locust issue and said this shows the strength of Pak-China relationship.
The meeting was attended by National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lt-General Muhammad Afzal, Secretary National Food Security Dr Muhammad Hashim Popalzai, Food Security Commissioner Dr Syed Waseem-ul Hasssan and Animal Husbandry Commissioner Dr Khurshid Ahmed.
Meanwhile, FAO Director General Qu Dongyu has pledged to help Pakistan fight its desert locust emergency after witnessing the devastating impact of the upsurge in Punjab region. During his recently concluded visit, Dongyu saw how the desert locust upsurge was destroying crops and harming rural communities.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020