Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam has said that there was no immediate threat of food shortage in the country despite the ongoing locust attack and prediction of above normal Monsoon rains.

However, the government was making a strategy for next year in view of declined in agricultural production.

Talking to VoA , the minister said that the Met office had predicted ten percent extra rains during the monsoon season which might affect Khareef crops in the country as climate variations were causing a change in traditional monsoon rains every year.

Fakhar informed that a strategy to deal with expected monsoon rains and floods was also being discussed with provinces at National Command and Control Centre.

He said, Ministry of Food in collaboration with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would make all-out efforts to save crops from rains and floods, adding, “We can make an estimate of threats like locust, rains and floods which can be prevented to some extent but complete protection is not possible for crops under the open sky.” The minister said that the government was working on the crops insurance policy to make it easier to benefit the farmers.

Pakistan s agriculture was facing attack of locust along with severe weather conditions while Met office had predicted that monsoon rains would provide ideal environment for the growth of locust, he pointed out.

The minister said that fertilization of locust was a big threat for Paksitan s agriculture and the government was working on preventive measures in collaboration with the provinces.

He informed that locust stayed in Rajhistan desert last year due to untraditional rains in October and November and because of its growth in the desert, it spread in such areas where it had never reached before.

Although all provinces were affected by the locust attack, but the damage remained below fifty percent in all the areas, he added.

According to United Nations Food security, if Pakistan s 25% agricultural production is effected by locust, it can cause increase in prices of commodities along with five billion Dollars loss to the economy.

Fakhar Imam told that the Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced national emergency and allocated Rs 26 billion to fight the locust attack.

He said that Federal and provincial governments were working to eliminate locust under a comprehensive strategy and trying to stop nourishment of the locust.

For chemical spray, three planes of Ministry of National Food security along with five helicopter of Pakistan Army were being used, he added.

The minister said that the government was buying 11 more planes to increase the spraying capacity as helicopters were being used in crops area whereas planes were being used in deserts.

Pakistan s agricultural land was under attack by the locust nourished in Iran, Oman and African countries, he pointed out.

Replaying to a question about the expected loss, the minister said that loss due to locust attack on agricultural land was being estimated as it had damaged crops in all the four provinces, and there was a risk of low production this year, however, there was no immediate danger of food shortage.

According to official figures, fifty seven million acre area has been affected by the locust this year of which twenty three million acres were agricultural land.

The minister told that because of weather conditions causing unusual rains, wheat production target was not achieved this year due to which the government had allowed private sector to import wheat to overcome the shortage.

It is pertinent to mention here that Unites Nations  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a recent report has warned of food security crisis in Pakistan due to locust attack.

The minister said that the government had approved subsidy of Rs 50 billion for agriculture including Rs 37 billion for provision of subsidized fertilizers to the farmers.

He further illustrated that agriculture was back bone of Pakistan s economy and contributed 19.3 percent of GDP.

He also informed that indirect contribution of agriculture in GDP also stood at 20 percent as 70-80% raw material of the country s industry also came from the agriculture.

He said government had declared agriculture as its top priority because 42 percent of working population depended on this sector which had been neglected for last 20 years.

The minister said that his ministry was working on branding of agriculture commodities along with research and adaptation of modern techniques in the farming.

He told that brand act and seed act had been introduced after 20 years as there was no law earlier due to which India got registered Pakistani basmati rice.

Moreover, he said that packaging standards of Pakistan s fruits and agri-products were also being improved to help increase import of Pakistani products as well as to make these commodities cost-effective.