Pakistan

Government seeks FAO help to fight locust threat in Punjab

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Amin Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The government has sought technical advice and guidance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations on international best practices and use of pesticides with safety standards, as Punjab is facing a locust attack.

FAO representative in Pakistan Mina Dowlatchahi held a meeting with Minister for National Food Security and Research Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar here on Tuesday and discussed with him the current locust situation in Pakistan.

It was a follow-up meeting on the first national locust coordination meeting held last Friday.

The discussion focused on better understanding of the unusual behaviour of locust in Punjab, options for chemical and biological control measures and locust surveillance system being introduced by FAO.

FAO director general Qu Dongyu concluded his three-day official visit to Pakistan last week. During his stay in Pakistan, he pledged to help Pakistan fight its desert locust emergency after seeing first-hand the unusual impact of the locust attack in Punjab.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research and FAO signed last week a $500,000 technical cooperation programme to make FAO’s technical expertise available to national experts in order to strengthen their capacities to combat the desert locust infestation and improve locust management.

FAO is supporting the ministry to ensure availability of locust surveillance data in real-time. The data is being made available as part of the regular food security nutrition and information system for early warning and early action. Locust monitoring and timely control operations are vital to ensure food security and protect agriculture.

On the concern express­ed by Mr Bakhtiar over the use of chemical pesticides, FAO representative said that FAO had technical experts in its headquarters in Rome who could share their expertise with the government on the issue.

The minister asked for recommended chemical and bio-pesticides with minimal impact on environment.

Mr Bakhtiar emphasised on the urgent supply of e-locust devices for effective surveillance of locust in the affected areas.

The FAO representative affirm­ed to provide locust devices which required GPS facility in the affected areas.

“The supply of correct pesticides is extremely important and we do not want to end up with the procurement of wrong pesticides,” Mr Bakhtiar added.

Mina Dowlatchahi inform­ed the minister that FAO as a neutral coordinator was planning to organise a coordination meeting of locust-affected countries in the region, including Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan, early next month in Abu Dhabi.

The minister appreciated the efforts of FAO and called for developing a common work plan for controlling locust without any time lag.

Meanwhile, a team of locust experts from China has arrived in Pakistan to assess the situation and needs of Pakistan.

Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing held a meeting with Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan and said that the locust team was currently visiting Karachi and visiting affected areas of Sindh.

Dr Azeem Khan discussed the possible control measures for locust in the short term as well as long term.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020

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