Locust invasion wreaks havoc on Pakistan’s crops, orchards

Agriculture officials spray pesticides to kill desert locusts, the most destructive of the locust species, in a field in Pishin district of Pakistan on May 14, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Locust invasion wreaks havoc on Pakistan’s crops, orchards

  • Massive swarms of the desert locust began damaging crops in Pakistan last month
  • Millions of desert locusts had already damaged orchards, crops and vegetables

MULTAN, Pakistan: An invasion of locusts has spread across Pakistan, officials said Friday, causing damage to crops and orchards and posing a threat to food security in an impoverished Islamic nation already struggling to tackle a virus pandemic that has caused more than 1,300 deaths.
Massive swarms of the desert locust, which experts say originates in Africa and is the most destructive of the locust species, began damaging crops in Pakistan last month.
But the situation worsened this week and authorities began dispatching aircraft and spraying machines filled with pesticides mounted on vehicles to eliminate the insects, which are roughly the length of a finger and fly together by the millions.
Farmers could be seen wading through clouds of the insects as some tried to kill them with sticks.
Chaudhry Asghar, an agriculture officer in Multan, said millions of desert locusts had already damaged orchards, crops and vegetables.
“We have intensified efforts to save our crops from any further invasion of locusts,” Syed Fahar Imam, minister for National Food Security, said Friday. He said the government will buy five more aircraft for spraying crops.
The insects have wreaked havoc on swathes of farmland in eastern Punjab, southern Sindh and southwestern Baluchistan provinces. They also attacked crops in the northwest bordering Afghanistan.
The locusts have also brought agricultural destruction to neighboring India, where critics pointed the finger at Pakistan as a new breeding ground for the desert locusts. Pakistani officials said no country should blame another for the situation, but all affected countries need to make collective efforts to prevent a possible food crisis in the region.
Farmers say while crops of rabi, a type of grain, were sown in winter and harvested in the spring, locusts are damaging cotton and vegetable crops sown in April.
“I have already lost my cotton crop and vegetables because of these locusts,” Abdul Rehman, a farmer in Baluchistan province, said. He asked what they would eat if the locusts continued unchecked.
The National Disaster Management Authority said resources were being mobilized and operations were underway to curb the locust invasion.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with more than 64,000 cases confirmed and more than 1,300 fatalities.
The country reported 57 virus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, its most in one day since the outbreak began in February. Infections increased in Pakistan, including Islamabad, recently after the government eased lockdown restrictions — ignoring warnings from medical professionals.


UAE restructures government, seeking more agility as it deals with coronavirus impact

Updated 05 July 2020

UAE restructures government, seeking more agility as it deals with coronavirus impact

  • The energy and infrastructure ministries were merged under a single portfolio to be headed by the current energy minister, Suhail Al Mazrouei
  • Changes include abolishing half of government service centers and converting them to digital platforms within two years

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates announced a broad government restructuring on Sunday, merging government entities and appointing new economy and industry ministers, and giving it a year to achieve new targets.
The head of Abu Dhabi's national oil company ADNOC, Sultan al-Jaber, was named as industry and advanced technology minister and Abdullah al-Marri was appointed economy minister, as part of the restructuring announced by UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum on his official Twitter account.
The energy and infrastructure ministries were merged under a single portfolio to be headed by the current energy minister, Suhail Al Mazrouei.

The changes are being made to help the country deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Sheikh Mohammed said last month when plans to restructure were first announced.
Changes include abolishing half of government service centers and converting them to digital platforms within two years and merging around half of federal agencies with each other or within ministries.

Sheikh Mohammed, also the ruler of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, said the changes would speed up decision making and make the government more responsive to change.