ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party Vice Pres­ident Senator Sherry Rehman yes­terday said the farmers across Pa­kistan were suffering the worst plague of locusts in recent history which will cause a loss of Rs 600 billion to the Pakistani economy.

In a statement, she said: “This will be economically devastating for us as agriculture accounts for 20% of GDP and 65% of the pop­ulation live and work in agricul­tural areas. The fact that the lo­cust plague in Pakistan may wipe out livelihoods and worsen food security.”

She added, “Around 38% of Paki­stan is now a breeding ground for the desert locusts and more than 140,000 acres of crops have been damaged in Pakistan alone since last April. Considering these grim reports, it is surprising that the federal government has not come up with an effective policy to tack­le this issue.”

She said Sindh is the most vul­nerable to this new locust invasion and can lead to a potential loss of Rs451 billion, which, is approxi­mately 70% of Sindh’s budget but the federal government has still not launched a spraying drive in Sindh and nor has PM Khan taken any action despite the Sindh CM’s request.

The Sindh government has been reporting issues to the federation for a year but as always there was no response from them.”

She said as this issue came under the domain of the Federal Ministry of National Food Security, particu­larly the Department of Plant Pro­tection, the provinces required the federal government’s assistance in addressing this issue.

“Instead the federal govern­ment is falsely claiming that the situation has been handled and they have done aerial sprays but the Sindh Agriculture Minis­ter has proved that in the last 6 months, no area in Sindh has been sprayed,” she added.

Since it is the federal govern­ment’s responsibility, Sherry said, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shahhad asked for the provision of 6 aircraft, ultra-low volume spray­ers, pesticides and lambda cyha­lothrin emulsified concentrate in sufficient quantities, besides hu­man resources in the form of field teams.

“But what we got was just an old aircraft and a pilot which had been deployed for combating locusts in Sindh and Balochistan. We are still waiting for the federal govern­ment to provide 5 more aircrafts and pesticides for locust control in the province before the harvest of Kharif crops,” said the Senator.

The Senator said this was a crisis in the making due to its impend­ing threat to the food security and warrants immediate measures by the Federal government.

“The affected areas need to be sprayed on urgent basis as our mango, cotton, onion, chilli, toma­to and other crops have already been destroyed which could have been easily prevented had the fed­eral government been swift in its response,” the PPP leader said.

Discussing the way forward, she said, early warning, early response, and inter-provincial collaboration were critical elements for battling the locust invasion. NDMA must assist provinces in setting up an early response system and a Na­tional Action plan on the new lo­cust invasion must be created”.