The recent attack of locusts in Pakistan poses a bigger threat to the country’s economy than the coronavirus contagion as it curbs farm yields, livelihoods and food security, Bloomberg reported.
Director-General of Crop Protection at the Ministry of Food Security And Research Falak Naz said that the locust-invasion now covers an area of 57 million hectares in the country with a total crop area of 23 million hectares.
However, the director added that not all areas are infected as of yet but the infestation is growing fast.
Being a mostly agricultural-based economy, Adviser to the Chambers of Commerce and Industry Ahmad Jawad said that the pest infestation is a bigger problem than the coronavirus for Pakistan.
“You can save yourself from coronavirus by maintaining social distance, but there’s no escaping a hunger crisis if the locusts attack,” Jawad said.
Cotton crop seems to be more vulnerable to locusts attack after wheat, pulses, oil-seeds and mango crops had been damaged.
Damage to cotton crop would further worsen the economy’s forecast as most of the country’s exports are based on it.
The authorities concerned had to step-up support for the agriculture sector as it faces its worst locust attack in three decades.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered the release of funds worth Rs132 million which the provincial government had earlier kept to use for coronavirus emergency.
CM Murad also ordered the release of further Rs286 million for the purchase of chemicals and 25 pesticide-spraying vehicles.
In Sindh, locusts have damaged wheat, oilseeds, pulses, fodder and vegetables in an area of more than 166,701 hectares or 13.8% of the province’s total crop area whereas cotton, sugarcane and other crops sown over more than 1.75 million hectares are also at risk of the pest attack.
"The government is using four aircraft and half-a-dozen army helicopters for crop dusting, and is planning to buy six planes from Air Tractor,” Naz said.
“Farmers are using methods like beating drums and revving tractors to scare away the locusts that move about 90 miles an hour and eat any produce in their sight.”
According to Chief Executive Officer at Arif Habib Commodities Ahsan Mehanti, the locust infestation is capable of wiping out 40 per cent of Pakistan’s major crops.
“This is a major threat,” Mehanti said. “Pesticides should be procured to completely eradicate the locusts and save the crops.”