Are we nearing food shortages? | All you need to know about Pakistan’s ‘locust’ crisis

The locusts are believed to have entered initially into Balochistan from the Horn of Africa via Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Vast swarms of desert locusts are destroying crops across Pakistan, amid the coronavirus pandemic, risking food shortage in Pakistan this year.

The hopper bands of Schistocerca gregaria, which are commonly known as the desert locust, have already devoured vast quantities of crops in over 60 districts of all the four provinces. These desert insects eat anything from bark to seeds and flowers while traveling up to a speed of 93.2 miles (149 km) a day.

The locusts are believed to have entered Balochistan from the Horn of Africa via Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province. Heavy rains and cyclones enabled unusual breeding and the rapid growth of locust populations on the Arabian Peninsula early last year.

Locust attack threatens food security in Pakistan, South Asia |The ...

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pakistan’s 38% of agriculture fields are breeding grounds for the insects. Out of which, 60% locusts breed in Balochistan alone, followed by 25% in Sindh, and 15% in Punjab.

The UN agency said the locusts may have caused financial loss worth 600 billion rupees ($3.72 billion) to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Nat­ional Disaster Manage­ment Authority (NDMA) Cha­­irman, Lt Gen Moham­mad Afzal said on Tuesday the NDMA is trying its best to overcome this problem by devising a comprehensive plan.

He further added that the locusts are locally bred and indigenous as due to extensive cold and snowfall in areas of Balochistan in January and February, the locusts did not move back to Iran and Africa but stayed in Pakis­tan and laid their eggs.

Locusts move on to India after creating havoc in Pakistan.

Swarms of locust in the walled city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, Monday, May 25, 2020, | Source: PTI

The locusts entered India through Rajasthan, forcing the authorities to prepare for the country’s worst plague in nearly three decades. India has not seen locust swarms on this scale since 1993.

Minor locust attacks have been a common occurrence in Rajasthan over the years, but it is rare for the insects to be present in such a multitude and move further into India. After destroying crops in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, the locusts’ swarms are heading towards India’s capital, New Delhi, in large numbers.

Kuldeep Srivastava, head of the regional forecasting center of the India Meteorological Department, says that they are expecting a change in wind direction on Friday evening, which may reduce the locusts’ impact in the urban setting.

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