Locust invasion wreaks havoc on Pakistan’s crops, orchards

In this file photo, Pakistani children try to avoid locusts swarming in Rahimyar Khan on Nov. 13, 2019. (AP)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Locust invasion wreaks havoc on Pakistan’s crops, orchards

  • Farmers say locusts are damaging cotton and vegetable crops sown in April
  • Government intensifying efforts to save crops from further locust invasion, says minister

MULTAN: 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 Fakhar 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.

Emirates resumes Pakistan flights for passengers with negative COVID-19 tests

Updated 02 July 2020

Emirates resumes Pakistan flights for passengers with negative COVID-19 tests

  • Passengers must carry a negative COVID-19 test report from a lab approved by the airline
  • In late June, Emirates suspended its Pakistan flights after some passengers tested positive

ISLAMABAD: Emirates has resumed services to Pakistan after a brief suspension last month, and made coronavirus clearance obligatory for all passengers.

In a statement on Wednesday, the airline said that travelers coming from Pakistan must carry a negative COVID-19 report from a laboratory approved by the airline, where they ought to present their booking reference and passport copy.

They must take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test up to four days before departure and present their test result at the time of check-in. 

“Passengers will bear the cost of PCR test and certificate,” the airline clarified.

On June 24, Emirates suspended its Pakistan services after some passengers who traveled to the country tested positive for the coronavirus in Hong Kong.

Farhan Ahmed, chief executive of Blue Wings travel agency in Islamabad, told Arab News that Emirates had requested all travel consultants to inform passengers traveling from Pakistan that they would be able to board within 96 hours after receiving negative test results.

In June, Pakistan witnessed a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday, more than 217,800 people were known to have contracted the disease, with over 4,300 new infections reported in the past 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed.

Nearly 4,500 Pakistanis have died from the virus and 2,700 are in critical condition. Over 104,600 are known to have recovered.