Wildlife & Biodiversity

Locust attack: Farmers may delay monsoon crops as the crisis lingers

India will have a second attack of locusts from Africa hitting by next month as COVID-19 lockdown delays export of pesticides to Kenya  

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 26 May 2020
Locusts have laid waste crops in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Photo: @srinivasiyc / Twitter__

With large-scale crop losses across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, officials are now staring at another crisis caused by the worst-ever locust attack on Indian states.

Farmers in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh may have to delay the kharif, or monsoon crops, due to the locust attacks in both states, sources attending a meeting at the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare last week, said.

The stock-taking meeting was for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Crop losses amounting to Rs 8,000 crore have been estimated by the Rajasthan government for the state, which is the worst-hit.

Many districts in Madhya Pradesh have reported crop damage by locusts as well. The government of Uttar Pradesh is still collating information on potential losses to standing crops.

“The threat is that if the present attack by locusts continues, farmers would not take up the next crop out of fear,” a source present at the meeting, said.

Currently, locusts continue to swarm new areas and their numbers are reportedly unprecedented. Many experts have called the phenomenon as being ‘rare in history’.

Meanwhile, another development has made it certain that India would have a second locust attack in the near future. It took place in Kenya, an east African country already reeling under its worst locust attack.

Usually, locusts migrate out of this region to Pakistan and Iran and then to the Indian border with the former by mid-June.

If their population is not contained, and is allowed to proliferate, one would expect more insects to come into India.

“Because Kenya has delayed locust control measures, India should expect a second wave of locust attacks by next month,” the source said.

This means the current attacks, even if controlled now, would mean nothing to farmers as in just a few weeks, they would be facing another attack.

This, the FAO meeting indicated, was the reason why farmers might not take up or significantly delay the monsoon or kharif crops.

Kenya has been struggling with scarcity of pesticides to be sprayed to kill the locusts. Due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, its import process was delayed.

Interestingly, India is providing pesticides and other chemicals to Kenya to control the locust attacks. But shipment to Kenya would start only in the next few days, thus taking weeks to reach Kenya.

This would further delay the emergency spraying of pesticides. In late April, the Kenyan government started a large-scale spraying operation in Wajir, Samburu, and Marsabit counties, where the swarms laid their eggs and which have now hatched. It is feared that containment has not been effective due to inadequate measures.

However, the Kenyan government has denied that the COVID-19 lockdown affected the emergency efforts.

“The pandemic lockdown has not affected their work because they are moving with security. They are offering essential services that are still operational,” agriculture principal secretary Hamadi Boga told Down To Earth earlier.

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