Pakistan says it has gained control over devastating locust swarms

Photo taken on Feb. 4, 2020 shows a cloud of locusts flying in Mwingi North, Kenya. A number of East African countries are suffering serious locust infestation, with Kenya experiencing its worst in 70 years, which, if left unchecked, could grow 500 times in scale by June, a UN spokesman said Friday. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said besides Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are undergoing their worst locust infestation in 25 years, and that Djibouti, Eritrea, Uganda and Tanzania are also experiencing swarm activity and locust breeding, while the risk of spread to South Sudan is high. (Xinhua/Fred Mutune)

Pakistani officials claimed on Friday the country had completely 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 emergency in February.

Locusts swarms first entered Pakistan in June last year from neighbouring Iran and quickly devastated large areas of agricultural land across south-western 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 around 2 million tons, forcing the government to import the crop for the first time in almost a decade.

The low yields have pushed up the price of wheat and other food grains, pushing overall inflation to almost 10 per cent 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 [resurgance] 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 tons of pesticides and technical expertise to help the country.

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