If the African swarm hits in July Pakistan, standing crops of cotton and rice will be damaged badly as we are not fully prepared: REAP former chairman
M Jahangir Hayat
LAHORE: In order to effectively combat the likely arrival of African locust swarms in July in the country, the government needs to hire planes from abroad on lease or use Army Aviation planes for Aerial spraying to avoid food security issues and further decline in export receipts.
This was stated by Lahore Chamber of Commerce former president and Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan former chairman Shahzad Ali Malik while talking to Daily The Business.
“If the African swarm hits in July Pakistan, standing crops of cotton and rice will be damaged badly as we are not fully prepared,” he deplored, adding that both the crops are of immense importance as we depend on them for staple food and foreign exchange.
Malik said the government should take strong proactive measures to protect the standing crops including Rice and Cotton from the evil clutches of the African locust.
The government should immediately hire planes on lease from abroad for aerial sprays or Army Aviation planes may be modified for the purpose, he suggested, adding that the measures that the government currently has taken are in no way sufficient.
In the 80s, the Plant and Protect Department (PPD) had 25 to 30 planes for aerial spray and today the department has just one plane at its strength while there were two planes with the department last year one of which had met a crash, he highlighted, adding, currently the PPD is using five or six planes and six Pak Army helicopters that are insufficient to combat such the huge calamity.
“There is an urgent need to enhance the number of planes for aerial sprays or we may confront the worst ever crisis” he further stated, that the already fragile economy is not able to sustain the full blow jerk.
On the other hand, the locust invasions are being considered as dramatic and sudden development that destroys everything green that comes in their way. The swarm has caused large-scale devastation to crops and general vegetation.
The unprecedented behaviour of desert locusts is a cause of concern as Pakistan is facing the worst ever locust attack.
Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers, some species of which under favourable climatic conditions congregate, move together as bands and swarm over long distances crossing over countries and continents rapidly, stripping fields and enormously damaging crops.
They take rapid advantage of the climate and geography, survive in a temperature range of 0-60 degrees Celsius and prolong or cut short their life cycle.
A solitary locust actively avoids contact. But under favourable conditions, particularly after heavy spells of rain, the contact becomes unavoidable. As the insects bump into one another, they begin to change — in an hour or so, they become attracted to each other.
During the course of one or two successive generations, they change in shape and colour to become bold yellow from the neutral brown.
To minimise environmental damages, pesticides, which are active for a short time, should be used. It gets difficult to control locusts when the adult locusts emerge from the fifth-instar hoppers and mature; they form swarms and fly away. At the same time, farmers should be advised to not take their livestock for grazing in an area being sprayed with pesticide for at least one week.
As part of the locust control measure, the central government has allocated Rs10 billion in Federal Budget 2020-21 to combat the swarm today.
Directives from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, which is monitoring the situation on a global scale, should be followed diligently for effective locust control.
The present situation has been aggravated with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The lockdown has led the world to slip into economic recession.