The locust problem in Pakistan escalated last week, as the nation already struggled to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected over 85,000 people across the south Asian nation. The invasion of these flying pests began last month.
Swarms of locusts have spread across Pakistan, destroying the crops and orchards in their path. This threat to the already impoverished nation's food security is one problem it could do without.
The insects have wreaked havoc in swathes of farmland in eastern Punjab, southern Sindh and southwestern Baluchistan provinces. They also attacked crops in the northwest bordering Afghanistan. Farmers were powerless to stop them munching through their precious crops.
"At the time of attack we were busy in our field and orchards. Once they attacked, we tried a lot to force them fly away, but we failed to control them," explains a local farmer.
Farmers have tried simple measures, liking banging kitchen utensils in the hope of scaring the insects away. But these basic attempts are no match for the millions of locusts descending on their fields. The problem escalated last week and farmers called in Pakistan's agriculture officials. There are now spraying crops with treatment to repel the swarms.
"Damage to mango crops is low, yes damage to vegetables is higher, but we have taken action through our combat team and shifted all the available machinery to the affected areas and started spraying," says Mian Manzoor, a senior agriculture official in Southern Punjab.
Experts estimate Pakistan's mango exports could be down by as much as 35 percent this year. The National Disaster Management Authority said resources were being mobilised and operations were underway to curb the locust invasion.