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Pakistan Says It Has Gained Control Over Devastating Locust Swarms

Locusts swarm a residential area of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Balochistan Province, in June.

Pakistani officials claimed on October 9 that the country had completely eradicated swarms of desert locust, months after declaring a national emergency to battle the infestation.

"By the grace of God and efforts of all, we can declare today there is no locust in Pakistan," said Lieutenant General Moazzam Ejaz, head of the National Locust Control Center.

"The swarm started declining from August, and we cleared the last few hectares of land in two districts this week," Ejaz said at a ceremony in the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistan has deployed drones, helicopters, hundreds of vehicles, and thousands of agricultural workers since declaring an emergency in February.

Locusts swarms first entered Pakistan in June last year from neighboring Iran and quickly devastated large areas of agricultural land across southwestern districts, ravaging cotton, wheat, maize, and other crops.

The damage prompted Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, to miss its production target for wheat by around 2 million tons, forcing the government to import the crop for the first time in almost a decade.

The low yields have pushed up the price of wheat and other food grains, pushing overall inflation to almost 10 percent in September, piling political pressure on the government.

Despite the government's claims, officials did not rule out the possibility of another attack by the insects.

"There can be a [resurgence], but based on our experience we will be ready to preempt that," said Mohamed Afzal, head of Pakistan's disaster management agency.

China, Pakistan's close ally and neighbor, donated drones, thousands of tons of pesticides, and technical expertise to help the country.