China has sent an agricultural working group to help Pakistan control the desert locust attacks, one of the country’s worst locust outbreaks in nearly three decades.
Chinese agricultural experts arrived on Monday, February 24, in Karachi, capital city of Southern Pakistan’s Sindh Province, starting a visit to the most affected areas of the recent locust attack, the economic and commercial counsellor’s office of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan told People’s Daily.
According to the economic and commercial counsellor’s office, formed by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the working group is scheduled to visit locust affected areas in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab Provinces and have meetings with relevant federal and local authorities as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) team in Pakistan.
During this visit, the Chinese experts will provide technical support for locust plague control and jointly work out an action plan with the Pakistani government so as to prevent another possible outbreak later in April.
The looming locust swarms
According to the FAO desert locust watch program, the current locust upsurge in East Africa and South Asia can be traced back to increased rainfalls in the southern Arabian Peninsula in 2018.
Heavy rains from two cyclones in that year provided favorable conditions for locust breeding, enabling three generations of locusts that were “undetected and not controlled.”
In 2019, the fast-growing locust swarms gradually began their journeys respectively westwards to the Red Sea coastal and then to the Horn of Africa, and eastwards to Iran, where control operations were less successful to stop the widespread locust breeding in spring.
After invading Pakistan last summer, the locust swarms inhabited in the Cholistan and Thar deserts along the Indo-Pakistan border areas. According to the Dawn newspaper, the swarm has grown to threatening proportions since November 2019 when the FAO warned that the swarm has started to leave its reproducing grounds.
FAO calls for quick and strong response
Earlier in the middle of this month, the FAO Director General Qu Dongyu warned Pakistan that with the start of the raining season in April, swarm increases in large numbers will be the real disaster.
Despite the locust attack has been so far under control, Pakistan needs to work as soon as possible to prevent future disasters, according to Qu.
Because the locust swarms are currently active in limited areas, “if we can cure, we can prevent a bigger disaster,” he said, suggesting air force be mobilized to conduct aerial spray operations.