Locust situation worsening as swarms entering Pakistan via Afghanistan

Updated 12 Jun 2020

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Insects entering Punjab from KP, posing serious threat to country’s food basket. — AFP/File
Insects entering Punjab from KP, posing serious threat to country’s food basket. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The desert locust situation in Pakistan is fast deteriorating and locusts have found a new corridor — they are ente­ring Pakistan from Afghan­istan — to attack agricultural fields in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Crop losses have been reported in several areas of Khyber Pakht­unk­h­wa, particularly in Dera Ismail Khan district, from where these loc­ust swarms were entering Punjab thereby posing a serious threat to the food basket of the country.

Winding up the debate on locu­sts in the National Assembly on Thursday, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam said the government was keeping a vigil on the movement of swarms of desert locusts entering Pakistan from four countries: Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti in the horn of Africa via Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran.

He said that new swarms of des­ert locusts would enter Baloc­histan from Iran over the next two weeks, adding that the province was already the worst-hit with its 33 districts already invaded by insects.

Insects entering Punjab from KP, posing serious threat to country’s food basket

In Balochistan, he said, ground operation against locusts had been carried out over 85,000 hectares by ground teams and aerial sprays had been carried out over 500 hectares.

A well-coordinated operation involving the federal and provincial governments, the district administration and farmers was under way to eliminate locusts.

At the same time, he said, the federal government was in close coordination with the Food and Agri­­c­ulture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations which was keeping Pakistan informed on a daily basis on the movement of locust swarms in the region.

The minister said that the department of plant protection of the ministry of national food security was recruiting 100 entomologists, 50 locust assistants and 50 drivers on an emergency basis to help the government fight the menace.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2020