Locusts threaten South Asian food security . . .
An outbreak of locusts that began in East Africa has spread to Pakistan and India, devastating crops and fields and threatening widespread famine across South Asia. The outbreak in Pakistan was declared a national emergency last week. In India, the provinces of Rajasthan and Gujarat in the northwestern part of the country have been the two hardest hit regions so far, losing upward of 30 per cent of their crops. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called it the worst locust outbreak in 25 years.
Swarm could grow to 500 times current size . . .
India first noticed the front end of the swarm enter Rajasthan from Pakistan in mid-December but expected it to quickly die off. The situation has now become much more difficult to control, exasperated by an unusual sequence of long droughts and heavy floods – attributed to climate change – that has acted as an accelerant for the insects' life cycle. The FOA expects the 360-billion-strong locust swarm, currently 64 kms wide, to expand 500 fold in the coming months. The devastation in Pakistan, not expected to peak until June, will compound the effects of the slowdown in the country’s economic growth that began in mid-2018. The situation will be dire for millions of people in South Asia who have been dealing in recent years with food shortages brought on by the droughts and floods.
Humanitarian disaster in the making . . .
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was already fighting serious inflation, rising food costs, and tensions with his neighbours when the outbreak began. The county’s planned emergency imports of flour and sugar will help mitigate some food shortages but may have limited impact given the underlying governance challenges. As the Pakistan-India border regions will likely suffer the most, we will be watching to see how the situation influences tense relations between the two countries. Canada may be able to play an important humanitarian role by providing food assistance.
- Farmer’s Weekly: India reports crop damage as locust plague spreads to Asia
- Financial Times: Locusts and food shortages add to pressure on Imran Khan
- National Geographic: A plague of locusts has descended on East Africa