HYDERABAD            -        Sindh Minister for Agriculture Muhammad Ismail Rahu has said that the provincial government has released Rs350 million for anti-locusts operation and it hoped that the locust swarms will be eliminated within next 10 to 15 days from all over the province.

The minister expressed these remarks while addressing a news conference here at the directorate of Sindh Agriculture Extension on Friday. Among others, MPA Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah and Director General Agriculture Extension Sindh Hidayatullah Chajar were also present on the occasion.

The minister said that directives have been issued to district administrations concerned to carry out survey in locust affected districts so that the provincial government could determine the losses and provide relieve to locusts affected growers.

The provincial government fully realised the miseries of the growers and will make all out efforts to compensate them, he assured.

He said that till date the agriculture field of 101,613 acres had so far been affected as a result of locusts attacks. The provincial government conducted ground spray at an areas of 44,404 acres an aerial spray at 407 square kilometers of the coastal belt, the minister informed and added that ground spray in coastal belt had also been carried out at an area of 23,0000 acres.  He further said that besides 40 field teams of Sindh Agriculture Extension, joint field teams of Federal Plant Protection Department and Sindh Agriculture Extension have been engaged in carrying out anti-locusts operation. Besides, 15 more field teams of Sindh Agriculture Extension are being sent in affected areas along with required equipments, the minister informed and added that spray is also being conducted in desert areas of the province. The minister while expressing regrets over not handing over all related wings to agriculture department to Sindh under 18th Amendment, said that despite difficulties, the provincial government is making all out efforts to provide maximum relief to growers within available resources.

He said that the provincial government had approached to federal plant protection departments after entering of locust swarms in Sindh from Iran, Afghanistan and India via Balochistan, on May 29, 2019 but the provincial government received no prompt respond of its request of providing spray airplane locust elimination. The Sindh Government was informed that out of 20 spray airplanes, three are functional for which funds are required for fuel and fumigation.  The Sindh government had released 10 million for fuel and fumigations, but out of three functional spray airplanes, the federal plant protection department had provided only one airplane which has been engaged in conducting spray since November 16, 2019.  The federal plant protection department would provide remaining two airplanes within couples of day, he informed. The minister claimed that the provincial government has been engaged to control the locust swarm since last six months from its own resources and sent field teams for spray after declaring emergency in affected areas. The provincial government is making all out efforts to completely eliminate locusts before start of next monsoon season in the province, he informed.

He said that a disaster management committee has been formed in Sindh Agriculture Department which will take prompt action for protection of plants and crops in cases of natural disasters if any. At present, the provincial government had purchased thousands of spray bags and anti-germs pesticides to eliminate locust swarms, he informed and added that the government also employing people on daily wages to enhance manpower for anti-locusts operation.

Besides Larkana division, the minister informed that Tharparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Sukkur and Shaheed Benazir districts are the locust affected areas where the district administration has been engaged to make assessment of the losses.  Replying to a question regarding cane crushing, the minister informed that 26 sugar mills of the province has started crushing from November 15, 2019 while boilers of four sugar mills have also started functioning and remaining sugar mills will so start the cane crushing. The government would soon fix the cane price for ongoing crushing season which would be comparatively high from Punjab province, the minister assured.