New Delhi: More than 1.68 lakh hectares of land in the country has been affected by locust attacks, with Rajasthan and Gujarat taking the worst hit, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told Rajya Sabha Friday.
Responding to a question on the scale of the attack, Tomar said 88 per cent of the total 1,68,548 hectares of affected farmland witnessed a severe crop loss of more than 33 per cent. The agriculture minister also informed Parliament that groups of locust adults were spotted in Punjab and Haryana, but no crop damage has been reported so far.
Rajasthan bore the brunt of the locust attack — 1,49,821 hectares were damaged, of which 1,34,959 hectares sustained severe crop damage of more than 33 per cent. In Gujarat, 18,727 hectares of farmland was affected.
Farmers from Rajasthan and Gujarat have been facing attacks from locust swarms, which come from Pakistan through Jalore and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, and then spread across Banaskantha, Patan and Mehsana districts in Gujarat.
According to Rajesh Kumar, plant protection officer at the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO), Jaisalmer, the swarms of adult locusts entered Rajasthan through Pakistan in mid-December and were expected to be repelled in a week. However, they continued to attack crops till the last week of January. “As the swarm moves with the direction of the wind, it’s very difficult to chalk out a plan to completely eliminate (them), which as a result leaves some farmers vulnerable to fend for themselves,” Rajesh said.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation had on 18 December put out the ‘Desert Locust bulletin’, warning that groups of adult locusts were expected to arrive from southwest Pakistan. However, Indian LWO officials said their Pakistani counterparts did not inform them in time to effectively prepare for the situation.
The state governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan have identified about 65,000 farmers — 11,230 from Gujarat and 54,150 from Rajasthan — who will receive compensation, Tomar said in his reply.
Gujarat has allocated Rs 32.76 crore for farmers who suffered over 33 per cent of crop loss during the locust attack. The compensation includes Rs 13,500 per hectare from the State Disaster Relief Fund and Rs 5,000 per hectare upto a maximum of two hectares from the state budget for each farmer. Rajasthan also set aside Rs 90 crore, of which Rs 86.21 crore has already been paid to farmers, Tomar said.
Crops of mustard, castor, cumin and wheat suffered the worst damage in both states. In Rajasthan, oilseed and cumin were heavily damaged in Jalore and Jaisalmer, while in Gujarat, wheat crops in Banaskantha, Patan, Mehsana and Sabarkantha districts were the worst affected.