Government needs to take strong measures to avoid food security issue: Kh Khawar Rasheed
M Jahangir Hayat
LAHORE: Locust swarms have destroyed wheat, cotton, vegetables and other crops at vast scale in different parts of the country that should be a matter of serious concern for all or after COVID-19 the calamity seems to hit hard the agricultural economy of the country.
This was stated by Punjab Economic Council (PEC) chairman and Lahore Chamber of Commerce LCCI former Senior Vice President Khawaja Khawar Rasheed while talking to Daily The Business on Tuesday.
He said that crops, particularly cotton had already been badly affected by rains and now locusts attack is adding fire to the fuel.
“Our farmer brothers are too much worried and compelled to see their crops being destroyed in front of their eyes with tears. They are trying to run the millions of locusts away through self helps and with desi methods due to lack of support from the concerned authorities. Despite all efforts, farmers are unable to save their yields. Gangs of locust are landing the cropped area and destroying everything in minutes” he informed.
“The catastrophe has targeted some of the poorest rural parts of the country where poverty is already at its peak and farmers are heavily in debt,” he highlighted, adding that millions of locusts are present in Pakistan and a failure to control meant they would grow and would become more devastating.
In answer to yet another question, he added that being an agrarian country, Pakistan cannot afford to lose its agriculture base. If it happens, country would be facing a severe threat of food security and unavailability of raw materials for the industry that would make national economy vulnerable, he concluded.
He urged both provincial and federal governments to evolve an effective strategy to overcome locust swarms issue, which is wreaking havoc in the country, posing serious food security risks amid Covid-19.
Rasheed said that there is an urgent need to take far reaching measures to contain the threat of locust since it first emerged in May 2019.
“This very thought provoking as Pakistan has witnessed extraordinary increase in locust infestations on crops,” he said, that never in its history had the country faced an issue of food security but the locust invasions may put Pakistan to face the issue.
He said that there are reports that huge swarms of the insect are developing in Yemen and Africa and soon they may reach Pakistan. “May Almighty protects us” he pointed out explaining 38% of the area in Pakistan was favourable for locust breeding and with monsoon season approaching in the coming months, locust infestation can cause a dent of multi-billion to the agricultural economy and affect the food security of Pakistan.
In answer to a question, the former LCCI SVP said that if we do not proactively take up the issue, it may prove another serious blow to the already suffering economy of Pakistan due to COVID-19.
“Nevertheless, it is high time that the federal and provincial governments leave political differences aside and take urgent measures to eradicate the locust problem,” he stated.
The window of time to effectively control the problem is quite narrow and the prime time to eliminate the insect is when it is breeding in desert, Rasheed asserted.
He stressed the urged need for aerial sprays all across the rural areas to save the country from the evil clutches of the worst calamity after COVID-19, he stressed.
The definite roles of provincial and federal government should be outlined so that their efforts are complemented, the LCCI ex-SVP suggested.
He urged the both federal and provincial governments to undertake comprehensive strategy to tackle the issue.
It is a regional threat and control measures should be coordinated with India and Iran for effective control of the problem, he recommended.
Rasheed said that the inverse impact of locust on agricultural production may in turn cause devastation for other sectors of the economy, he adding, the government must arrange immediate aerial spray to control locust and fully support the farmers in their struggle against locust as worst attacks in decades had devastated agriculture sector in various parts of the country.