Pakistan claims devastating locust attack brought under control

The infestation had forced the government to declare a national emergency as the invading insects ravaged crops.

Pakistan locusts
In this picture taken on February 23, 2020, a farmer holds dead locusts in Pipli Pahar village in Pakistan's Punjab province [File: Arif Ali/AFP]

Pakistani officials have claimed the country has eradicated swarms of desert locust, months after declaring a national emergency to battle the infestation.

“By the grace of God and efforts of all, we can declare today there is no locust in Pakistan,” said Lieutenant General Moazzam Ejaz, head of the National Locust Control Centre.

“The swarm started declining from August and we cleared last few hectares of land in two districts this week,” Ejaz said at a ceremony in the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan deployed drones, helicopters, hundreds of vehicles and thousands of agriculture workers since declaring an emergency in February.

Locust swarms first entered Pakistan in June 2019 from neighbouring Iran and quickly devastated large areas of agricultural land across southwestern districts, ravaging cotton, wheat, maize and other crops.

The damage prompted Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, to miss its production target for wheat by about 2 million tonnes, forcing the government to import the grain for the first time in almost 10 years.

The low yields have pushed up the price of wheat and other foodgrains, pushing overall inflation to almost 10 percent in September piling political pressure on the government.

Despite the government’s claims, officials did not rule out the possibility of another attack by the insects.

“There can be a [resurgence] but based on our experience we will be ready to pre-empt that,” said Mohamed Afzal, head of Pakistan’s disaster management agency.

China, Pakistan’s close ally and neighbour, had donated drones, thousands of tonnes of pesticides and technical expertise to help the country tackle the crisis.

Source: DPA