As the country deals with a perceivably engineered shortage of sugar that necessitated the commodity's import, the sugarcane crop in Sindh has begun to confront a portentous disease.
Prompted by the Sindh Abadgar Board, a farmers' lobbying group, the Sindh agriculture extension technical director gave a wakeup call on Tuesday to the agriculture research and agriculture extensions wings.
The disease has surfaced in some parts of Tando Allahyar district. The same had also affected around 40 acres of the crop in Nawabshah and Tando Allahyar districts last year.
The sugarcane is cultivated on around 650,000 acres.
"An outbreak of a sugarcane disease in the sugarcane crop has been reported," reads the letter written to the Sindh agriculture research director-general. He has been asked to form a committee of experts to survey the affected crops and collect primary information along with sampling of the affected crops for a laboratory diagnosis.
"Your cooperation and early action will definitely help the growers to save their precious crop from further loss," stated the letter.
Besides, divisional directors of the agriculture extension wing of Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Benazirabad, Sukkur and Larkana divisions have also been asked to keep the field staff alert.
The staff will also have to remain in contact with sugarcane farmers and the sugar mills besides informing the agriculture research department for further diagnosis and remedy measures.
The letter states that the additional directors and the deputy directors of the Sindh agriculture extension wing will fully cooperate with the team of experts during the survey.
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Meanwhile, a meeting of the Sindh Abadgar Board described the disease as a complicated and contagious one with little known control measures. "It can cause major production shock," the board warned.
The board emphasised that all the stakeholders including the farmers, the mills and the government will have to take efforts in concert with each other in order to contain the disease. The board also suggested seeking international help.
Some experts from the sugar mills and the farmers visited the affected crops in Tando Allahyar and collected samples for the lab test of the disease. "The agriculture experts and the farmers agree that the disease appears to be dangerous and that currently there seems to be no cure against it," said the vice president of the board, Mahmood Nawaz Shah. "If the diseases spread, it can cause major loss to the crop."
According to Shah, if the disease turns out to be Fusarium wilt it can cause a huge loss to the sugarcane crop.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2021.