KARACHI - Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Wednesday said, he was receiving reports from the growers that the locust swarms had again started attacking their crops.

“This is a serious situation and must be addressed at the earliest, otherwise food security issue would be inevitable,” he said while presiding over a meeting regarding control on locust in Sindh, said a statement issued from the CM House.

The meeting was attended by Minister Agriculture Ismail Rahu, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, PSCM Sajid Jamal Abro, Secretary Finance Hassan Naqvi, Secretary Agriculture Raheem Soomro, Brigadier Huzaifa of 5 Corps, DG PDMA Salman Shah, DG Agriculture Extension Hidayatullah, Director Department of Plant Protection of Fed govt Tariq Ali Khan and others.

Minister Agriculture Ismail Rahu with the support of his secretary Raheem Soomro briefing the Chief Minister said initially Ghotki and Kashmore districts were affected by locust in April 2020. Mostly, the desert areas of the province were under threat.

The meeting was told that locust came from Balochistan and adopted route of Jacobabad, Larkana, Kambar-shahdadkot, Jamshoro and travelled to other districts. Adult locust swarms almost affected all the districts, therefore the agriculture department took immediate efforts for survey and control operation.

The locust, the meeting was informed, attacked Ghotki district in April 2020 where 18829 acres and a similar attack was reported in Kashmore where emergency was declared and 19227 acres were sprayed.

Ismail Rahu said Nymphal population / Hopper bands available in desert areas of Tharparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Shaheed Benazirabad, Khairpur, Sukkur and Ghotki from where they could move to cropping area which was a serious threat.

He said the Department of Plant Protection (DPP), also helped the agriculture department in control operation in districts of Ghotki, Kashmore and Khairpur. The DPP covered an area of 18,871 acres.

He added that agriculture extension teams treated in all districts upto 43935 acres. “In this way over 62813 acres have been treated in 22 districts of the province,” Ismail Rahu told the CM.

The agriculture department was carrying out survey and control operation in cropping as well as desert areas, the Chief Minister was told.

Secretary Agriculture Raheem Soomro said NDMA and DPP had provided safety kits for 28 teams to be used for control operation, deployed five teams along with spray vehicles, delivered 12 tractor mounted air blast for cropping area. These air blasts have been given by Chinese government. They have also reserved 124,000 liters of ULV pesticides at Mirpurkhas and Sukkur for desert area spray.

The DPP has also imparted training to 50 agriculture field staff for handling ULV sprayers.

Brigadier Huzaifa told the meeting that the progressive move of Iranian locust population from Fars, Jask and Sistan would take place by end of May towards Pakistan. He added that control operation would be intensified during the migration of locust to eliminate the threat.

According to him the drying down condition in Thar and Rajistan desert, the locust adult were migrating towards green belt of India. He said it was expected that subsequent waves of locust swarms would settle in Thar for breeding purpose.

Giving reference of 2019 locust migration, Brig Huzaifa said they would likely move towards Balochistan, Punjab and KPK by end of May. Its threat during the current month was felt in Kashmore, Ghotki at Tando Allahyar where spray was conducted much in time.

He said locust threat was expected during June from Khuzdar towards Dadu, Naushehroferoze and Khairpur. From Lasbella to Thatta, Hyderabad, Badin, Mirpurkhas and Badin and then would settle in Thar.

The Chief Minister directed the agriculture department, PDMA, NDPP and Corps 5 Brigadier to share day to day situation of the threat and operation so that timely loopholes could be addressed.