Pakistan has amped up its efforts to secure international cooperation as a locust attack threatens to destroy crops across the country. Attacks in other countries in Africa and Arab lands and an unprecedented third generation breeding of locusts has raised alarm bells in Pakistan, as the months of May and June are likely to bring the worst of it. With the coronavirus pandemic worsening, polio cases resurfacing in Balochistan, the possibility of a dengue outbreak and impending locust attacks, the situation is going to be quite difficult to manage. The government will need all the assistance it can get from international partners as well as the private sector, in order to navigate through the months ahead.

Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, as it employs the most number of people and is the primary activity in most rural areas that still cover a majority of Pakistan. There are reports that suggest a whopping 23% drop in the production of mangoes in South Punjab. Due to the locust outbreak, Pakistan is also likely to miss wheat production targets. Then, there is the most recent issue of diesel shortage, which is hurting farmers because most agricultural equipment runs on diesel.

All this means that the rupee may perform poorly against the dollar, which doesn’t fare well for the country’s plans for economic recovery. The recent rise in federal reserves will not amount to much if Pakistan is not able to protect the agricultural sector. The government can certainly intervene to ensure supply so artificial crises like the diesel shortage are not allowed to add to the host of existing challenges.

Once immediate firefighting has been completed and the current crises are behind us, Pakistan should revisit its priorities and address the shortcomings brought to the fore by these disasters. Our disaster management capacity seriously needs to be enhanced, and investment made into building a stronger infrastructure both in terms of equipment and governance.