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India - Rajasthan farmers will lose crops worth ₹1,000 crore to locusts

It was the severity of the on-going locust incursions that prompted Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to write a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to declare it a national disaster, said experts on Tuesday.

In his letter to Modi, Gehlot said that farmers would suffer a loss of 1,000 crore even though timely warnings and joint locust control operations by the Centre and the State reduced the impact of the locust infestation.

The letter written on Saturday also urged the PM to declare the locust menace as a national disaster so that farmers can be compensated for the crop loss they have suffered. According to Gehlot, as much as 6.7 lakh hectares in the State have been affected by the locust infestation.

“When the locust attack happened last time — in 1993 — only 10-15 districts in the State were affected. Today, 32 out of the 33 districts in the State are impacted by the migratory pests,” said Suwa Lal Jat, Joint Director (Plant Protection) at Rajashtan’s Agriculture Department.

Apart from Rajasthan, many other States including Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are facing the brunt of the locust invasion.

Prolonged attacks

According to Jat, normally, such locust incursions last only 4-5 months. This time, it not only started early but also is showing no signs of abating. Locusts raided agricultural fields in the State last year, too, and stayed on for nearly 8-9 months.

“This year, the locusts attacks started in early April, which is rather unusual. Normally, these pests come in only end-May or early June,” he said, adding that both breeding as well as emergence of nymphs are happening simultaneously currently.

Krishan Saharan, an assistant agriculture officer in Churu district in the State said there is a lull at present. But the population of locusts will multiply manyfold if the nymphs emerging from the local breeding sites are not dealt with effectively.

“Cotton fields in many villages in the district were destroyed by locusts in June, and at the same time, they did not raid the groundnut crop. The other two crops — bajra (pearl millet) and guar — weren’t planted then,” Saharan said.

Jat said he has never seen such severe locust attacks in the past. “Earlier, the area affected was limited to somewhere around 1 lakh hecatres in the State. This time, it’s nearly six-fold.” As of now, locust control operations have covered 4.45 lakh hectares, he said.

Source – https://www.thehindubusinessline.com