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Rahu plays down damage caused to standing crops by locust invasion

HYDERABAD: Sindh Minister for Agriculture Ismail Rahu tried to belittle the damage caused so far by locust attack on standing crops but admitted the threat still lurked as the insect’s breeding season was nearing fast when it could multiply and spell disaster for Sindh’s agriculture if it was not exterminated in time.

He told journalists after inaugurating two-day mango show at Expo Centre here on Saturday that when locusts’ presence was reported in the desert area of Nara taluka in Khairpur district around end of May Sindh government intimated the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) and kept updating it on the insect’s movements from time to time between May and June.

Visitors mill around stalls at the Expo Centre mango festival on Saturday.—Dawn

Since the insect was not stopped in Balochistan where it first arrived from Iran, it flew into Sindh and now the provincial government was trying to control it to save crops, he said.

He said that he along with Sindh chief minister visited affected areas in three districts and found “… no major damage to crops yet the threat still lurked”.

However, the insect’s breeding season was approaching fast and desert was its final destination where it would lay eggs. Its number would multiply then and the situation might become serious, he cautioned.

Mr Rahu said that Sindh government had formed field monitoring teams in 22 districts, approached Food and Agriculture Organisation and requested Suparco to conduct survey to pinpoint where locusts could be present.

He said that aerial spray could be carried out in desert but they had only one plane at their disposal to spray insecticides. Even this plane had developed faults. He termed it a serious problem and said the government would not leave growers in the lurch.

He said that Sindh government had not received required funds for development schemes and admitted that work on some projects was hampered for lack of funds. Some projects did not receive funds but still tenders had been floated for various works including some subsidy-oriented programmes for farmers.

He regretted that provincial government had to cut funds for farm sector because of financial constraints. The federal government had shown a tendency that it would neither work itself nor allow provincial governments to work, he said.

Asked why DPP was not devolved to the province, he said that how could it have been when people were concerned even on this devolution which had been achieved after great struggle by smaller provinces.

He appreciated holding of mango show in Hyderabad after Mirpurkhas and described it as a good initiative for the promotion of agriculture sector considering substantial contribution of mango farming to farm sector.

Sindh government was committed to facilitate farmers in controlling post-harvest losses and increasing productivity besides improving mango export to Middle East to earn foreign exchange, he said.

Hyderabad Commis­sioner Mohammad Abbas Baloch, managing director of Sindh Enterprise Development Fund Mehboobul Haq, representatives of growers’ bodies and other officials concerned were also present at the inauguration ceremony.

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