Govt not ready for locusts outbreak – Agric ministry

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Bereng Mpaki

THE Agriculture and Food Security and Marketing Ministry is unprepared to handle a locust outbreak in the event that it happens.

This because the ministry does not have adequate spraying equipment and chemicals.

Although locusts have not yet been spotted in the country, the ministry is on alert after swarms were recently spotted in nearby South African farms.

The locust outbreak was first reported in Northern Cape last November. The locusts have also been reported in closer provinces like Eastern Cape and Free State. However, it is in Eastern Cape where they have been reported to have destroyed thousands of hectares of grazing pastures.

Deputy Agriculture minister, Letsitsi Mokoma, this week told the National Assembly that his ministry’s preparations to fight a locust outbreak in the event of one could be hampered by the lack of adequate sprayers and chemicals.

His ministry has only two vehicle mounted sprayers for the entire country. The country requires at least 10 sprayers to mount a successful fight against the locusts.

“Our challenges in the fight against a possible locust outbreak include inadequate vehicle mounted sprayers,” Mr Mokoma said.

“We currently have two such sprayers and we need at least 10 of them to successfully fight the locusts.

“The chemicals we currently have are for killing small insects such as aphids and stock borer.”

“Our technicians also need transport to immediately attend to the affected areas immediately but we have the challenge of lack of vehicles to do that.”

Asked by legislators why the ministry was unprepared, Mr Mokoma said they had not budgeted for the eventuality of a locust outbreak.

Despite its challenges, the ministry said it had organised two groups of plant health experts to go around the country monitoring the situation. The ministry is now mobilizing resources while also raising awareness among the public.

Meanwhile, Mr Mokoma also informed parliament that farmers in Maphutseng, Mohale’s Hoek lost crops work M200 000 from recent hailstorms which fell in the areas.

In Hloahloeng, in the same district, potato farmers were left counting their losses after their crops were swept away. However, the damage is yet to be quantified.

 

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