Swarms of locusts spreading across Pakistan are emerging as a bigger threat to the country’s economy than the coronavirus pandemic, with the pests threatening farm output, livelihoods and food security, The Express Tribune reported.
“If the desert locust is not contained, Punjab and Sindh may become summer breeding zone of the pest,” said a report submitted to the Supreme Court by Punjab government through Additional Advocate General Chaudhry Faisal Hussain.
It said desert locust appeared in Punjab’s Cholistan area in July last year. In November last year, locust swarms started migration toward Balochistan and South Punjab.
The locust-invasion now covers an area of 57 million hectares in a country with a total crop area of 23 million hectares, said Falak Naz, director general of crop protection at the Ministry of Food Security and Research.
“This is a bigger problem than the coronavirus for Pakistan,” said Ahmad Jawad, a fruits exporter and an adviser to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry, the nation’s main business lobby group.
“You can save yourself from coronavirus by maintaining social distance, but there’s no escaping a hunger crisis if the locusts attack,” he said.
From wheat to pulses and oil-seeds to mangoes, crops have already been damaged. The nation’s new cotton crop is seen as the most vulnerable to the pest attack — and with cotton-based products making up about half of Pakistan’s exports, the damage will further worsen the outlook for an economy forecast to shrink for the first time in 68 years.
“We are facing the worst locust infestation in more than two decades and have decided to declare national emergency to deal with the threat,” Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan announced on Saturday.
According to National Food Security Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, the locusts were currently at the Cholistan Desert close to the Pakistan-India border. The locusts arrived in Pakistan from Iran in June, the Daily Mail reported.
The government of Pakistan has declared a national emergency in this regard as hopper bands of the Schistocerca gregaria – commonly known as the desert locust – have already devoured large quantities of crops in over 60 districts of all the provinces.
These insects, mainly originating from deserts, eat anything from bark to seeds and flowers while travelling up to a speed of 149km a day,
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