Agriculture

Over 200,000 hectares crops lost to locust attacks since 2019: Agriculture minister

The locust attacks since 2019 were the most serious in the country in 26 years  

 
By Shagun Kapil
Published: Tuesday 16 March 2021
Over 200,000 ha crops lost to locust attacks since 2019. Photo: Vikas Choudhary

Locust attacks in the country damaged at least 200,000 hectares (ha) of crops across 10 states in the last two years, according to a reply by the Union government in Parliament on Tuesday.

The locust attacks between 2019 and 2021 were the most serious in the country since 1993. 

During 2019-20, locust incursion was reported in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab. In the following year, the insects attacked Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra, according to agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar. 

Rajasthan and Gujarat reported the highest a crop losses of at least 179,750 ha and 21,500 ha, respectively, over the two years.

During 2020-21, while Uttar Pradesh reported a nominal crop loss of 202.9 ha, vegetation damage was below 33 per cent in Maharashtra (805.8 ha) and Uttarakhand (292.4 ha).  

The locusts usually enter the scheduled desert areas of India from Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan just ahead of the monsoon season for summer breeding. They leave around October and November for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and Africa for spring breeding.

But in 2020, for the first time since the 1950s, they stayed on after November because the monsoon was prolonged

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said much of the crisis was caused by the supercyclone Amphan. Strong northwesterly winds (that enter from northwest and move towards southeast and east) were established in its aftermath, taking locusts into places as far as Chhattisgarh in the east and Maharashtra in south. 

As a result, many areas witnessed the attack for the first time.

Around 70 new equipment were procured from the United Kingdom and number of ground control teams was increased to 104 to better deal with locust swarms, Tomar said in his response.

Drones were also used to control the attacks for the first time in the world, the minister added.

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