The climate change and locust attacks have been wreaking havoc on crops around Pakistan.
Minister for Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam is going to propose a plan to the ministry of finance, to waive off loans for farmers whose crops were destroyed due to climate change and locust attacks.
Speaking in the National Assembly, the minister said credit is not given to the agriculture sector by banks despite its substantial contribution to the gross domestic product. He said the locust have been attacking Pakistan since April last year, adding that the last time the locust attacked crops in Pakistan was 27 years ago in the 1990s and before that in the 1960s.
Locust started from the horn of Africa and spread to other parts of the world, he added.
He said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is helping Pakistan in creating awareness about the locust. The minister said surveillance is needed to control the pest, adding that aerial sprays through the use of aircraft could only be done in deserts when the locust hatched eggs. The aerial spray cannot be done in areas with crops.
Fakhar said that due to locust, crops are damaged in all the four provinces but “we are still awaiting data from the provinces to know the extent of damage”.
The locust travel in small and big swarms at a speed of 90 miles per hour, eats green leaves and multiplies its numbers very fast. It has a life cycle of 84 days. The government has four aircraft for spraying and one of them crashed while five helicopters were given by the army.
China donated $4.9 million and thousands of liters of spray to clear the locust. China is also giving ground sprayers and drones, he added.
He was responding to Member National Assembly Afzal Khan Dhandla and others who invited the attention of the minister to the locust attack in Thal area, especially in district Bhakkar. Afzal said the government should pay the Agri debt of farmers whose crops were destroyed.
Agriculture is the backbone of the country and the government should focus on settling issues of farmers. Riaz Hussain Pirzada said the locust attack had damaged the crops and fruit orchards and nothing was done to resolve the issue.
He added that the government should announce a program within two weeks to resolve the issues of farmers concerning fertilizer, lack of water, and pesticide.
Khawaja Asif said that the parliament should take ownership of the agriculture policy and help improve the condition of farmers. Ehsanullah Tiwana said Bhakkar had been declared calamity hit area for the last five years.
Sanaullah Mastikhel said the government should sit with the members National Assembly and find solutions for problems faced by the agriculture sector. Syed Naveed Qamar said all crops and mango orchards are affected by the locust attacks.
He said locust is spreading in different districts of Sindh. The plant protection department had only four vehicles and a lot of aerial spray is needed.
We have to make a massive investment to control the locust and for the growth of the agriculture sector. Farmers should be protected and wheat should not be imported, adding State Bank allocated quota for agriculture credit but private banks did not give adequate loans to farmers.