HYDERABAD: As a fresh swarm of locusts begins to cut a swathe through the province's agricultural fields, the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) has appealed Prime Minister Imran Khan to act without further ado.
In a letter addressed to the PM, SCA president Syed Miran Muhammad Shah has requested the PM to come to the aid of Sindh's farmers.
Shah highlighted the devastation wreaked by the locusts in Sindh last year and conveyed the fears of agriculturalists as a new wave of attacks started.
"This year, we were not expecting early attacks but due to the negligence of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Plant Protection Department (PPD), locusts have once again begun to wreak havoc in the agricultural heartland of Sindh," he wrote.
According to estimates shared in the letter, an average swarm consists of around 40 million locusts, which can travel up to 150 kilometres in a day. A single swarm can destroy enough crops to feed 34,000 within a day.
Locust swarms descend on Noorpur Thal
Shah also cited a United Nations report, which disclosed that heavy rains and the rising frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean have created favourable conditions for the locusts to breed.
The cotton crop, sown over a month ago, was falling victim to the pests, he claimed, pointing out that cotton is one of the most important cash crops in Pakistan, contributing to 10 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. Quoting the Economic Survey of Pakistan, he added that 55 per cent of Pakistan's export earnings also came from cotton and related products.
He lamented that despite such evident significance of the agriculture sector, the country's authorities had failed to respond effectively to the looming threat. The SCA president pointed out that the PPD had only two functional aircraft to conduct aerial spraying of pesticides, out of which one had crashed in Sadiqabad in January.
He claimed that Pakistan required 10 to 15 planes to carry out immediate spraying in the unsettled areas of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. "The spring season brings favourable conditions for locust breeding. We need planes to cover the vast desert areas in the three provinces."
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He suggested the federal government seek help from China or hire the planes, warning that massive swarms of locusts would enter Sindh in the first week of May and destroy mango orchards, cotton and vegetable fields. "We are running out of time."
Warning that the financial losses could run to billions of rupees if the locusts were not controlled, the SCA urged the PM to ensure that the NDMA and PPD immediately swung into action.
Meanwhile, locust attacks on agricultural lands were reported in Sukkur, Kandhkot-Kashmore, Dadu, Jacobabad and Shikarpur districts on Thursday. The swarms first damaged crops in Shikarpur and later entered parts of Jacobabad and Sukkur districts.
Area farmers claimed that the fodder and grass they feed to cattle were under attack, adding that the swarms were affecting farmers and livestock breeders alike.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2020.