Indian farmers are on a high risk from crop-eating locusts which have been quoted by the UN to pose a severe risk to the country’s agriculture industry this year. The pests are reported to be migrating early this year from across regions of Pakistan.
This has in turn prompted the Agriculture Union to consider importing various equipment from the UK that would allow them to manage the risk and curb the damage to the crops. This has also placed several protocols across the nation to videoconference and discuss the strategies to fight this.
These locusts can fly more than 100 km a day, and a large swarm can eat more food than 30,000 humans in only one day. Last year attributed an increase in locust attacks to the warming weather and the increased frequency of the cyclone. While Pakistan has already declared an agricultural emergency, the next risk comes to India and China.
Locust attacks are quite deadly for crops as seen last winter when a moderately sized swarm ate through 300,000 hectares of crops in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The summer sowing beginning next month is crucial to the food production in the nation.
The main alert came on a Wednesday morning after having monitored the locust swarms by the Agricultural Ministry. The field agents of the ministry spotted the insects in April in a few districts in Rajasthan. Narendra Singh Tomar, the Agricultural Minister consulted the pesticide industry experts on ways to fight off the infestation. The new plan is to import various equipment from the UK.
India has constantly been monitoring the situation, and conducting cross-border talks with Pak representatives to ensure the crops survive. Generally, the locust swarms enter the deserts of India via Pakistan for breeding, and this gives time for our crops to mature and be harvested. However, their arrival has been preponed this year. The situation is even worse in the countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia due to widespread breeding of these locusts.
Heavy cyclones lately have made the breeding conditions favorable for the locusts in the Indian subcontinent for at least the next 6 months. Various pest specialists have speculated that the strategies to maintain the reserves of malathion insecticides are important and therefore their offices are active despite the COVID-19 caused lockdowns.
As per JN Thakur, former member of the Agricultural Ministry, the locust outbreaks of the past in 1950, and 93 have provided India with the experience to fight the bests, however we still lack the insecticide spraying aircrafts required to deal with large swarms of the bugs. The crisis has caused the Union Government to conduct awareness campaigns and training for farmers and officials from potentially risky districts.