Locust plague sparks national emergency as insects swarm fields and devastate crops

Farmers’ livelihoods have been threatened by the worst locust plague the country has seen in nearly 30 years. The unusually high breeding rates of the insects were caused by heavy rains and multiple cyclones, according to the United Nations. Swarms flew from East Africa to India before making their way to Pakistan. 

The Pakistani government has urgently appealed for outside help to tackle the problem. 

Almost half of all the crops near the port city of Karachi have been wiped out, according to the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture. 

Shebhaz Akhtar, an agricultural official, has been appointed to lead efforts to eradicate the locusts in the village of Pipli Pahar in central Punjab province. 

Mr Akhtar gave a grim outlook on the situation. 

“I have not seen an infestation like this one in my career,” he said. 

A large operation has been launched in the area to clear fields of the insects. 

Early each morning pesticide sprays are spread by tractors across plants as villagers band together to collect the dead locusts.

A second round of spray is used later in the day. 

But the pesticides used to kill off the swarms contain ingredients which are unsafe for consumption. 

So when crops have been sprayed and the locusts removed, plants must be pulled up and thrown away. 

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Some farmers have grown desperate as they await the arrival of pesticides. 

In an effort to deter the insects themselves, they have resorted to shouting loudly and banging pots. 

A team of experts from China has touched down in Pakistan to survey the damage. 

The Chinese government could also offer aerial spraying. 

This is a much faster and more efficient way of controlling the pests. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation has set up meetings between India and Pakistan.

The international body hopes the talks will lead to ways of preventing the insects from spreading further afield. 

Around 20 percent of Pakistan’s GDP comes from agriculture. 

The country has a population of 197 million. 

President of Pakistan Farmers Bureau, Zafar Hayyat, said the government “had become complacent” because locusts had not attacked crops in the country for years. 

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