Ahmedabad: India has sent teams armed with pesticides and specialist equipment to the western state of Gujarat after a UN warning that swarms of locusts could cross the Indian Ocean from the Horn of Africa.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement on Wednesday (4 July) that heavy rainfall will create favourable breeding conditions for locusts until October along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border.
“We have taken adequate measures and sent teams to Gujarat with chemicals and equipment to prevent any damage,” Indian Farm Secretary P.K. Mishra told reporters on Thursday (5 July).
Officials in Gujarat said they were preparing to battle any invasion by desert locusts.
Gujarat produces a major part of groundnut (oilseeds crop), the sowing of which has just begun with the arrival of annual monsoon rains.
It is also a key cotton producer.
“Villages have been alerted, trenches are being dug, and training to use empty vessels or canisters to make a loud noise has been imparted to shoo away swarms of locusts,” the state’s agriculture director, R. Serasia, told Reuters.
Two control rooms in northern Gujarat had been set up, but no insects had yet reached India, officials said.
The FAO statement said desert locusts had in the past crossed the Indian Ocean on monsoon winds as part of a natural migration cycle. Swarms from Ethiopia and northern Somalia could arrive in India and Pakistan “in the next days”, it said.
Gujarat officials said grasslands and fields in the state’s Kutch, Banaskantha, Patan, Porbander, Rajkot and Jamnagar regions were the most vulnerable.
“The epidemic may require emergency aerial spraying,” Avinash Kumar,a senior agriculture official said.
Gujarat was hit by a minor locust attack in 1993, when houses and fields were infested in several districts. The FAO statement said that a “very small part of an average swarm eats as much food in one day as about 2,500 people”.