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Ministry battles locusts in Chatham
Intense spraying and defogging has begun in Chatham as the Food Production Ministry battles swarms of locusts that have been ravaging crops, fruit trees and vegetation in the area over the past few days. Yesterday members of the newly-formed locust eradication unit of the ministry were kept busy responding to calls from farmers and residents as clouds of insects descended on plants and trees.
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj, speaking briefly with the T&T Guardian by phone yesterday, said the infestation is a “cause for concern.” But he said the ministry’s south regional office’s intense campaign would yield results and the locusts wreaking havoc in Chatham would be brought under control. “It must be a concern for us but this is a natural disaster and the ministry is embarking on the recommended way to treat with locust infestation,” he said.
While Chatham farmers have complained that the insects have damaged their food crops, Maharaj said he was yet to receive formal claims or complaints. “Since this incident broke out I have not received a single letter, E-mail, Facebook message, a single text or anything from any farmer regarding a grasshopper, much less a locust. “ I have received a request from Rentokill to import insects to serve on the promenade as a delicacy faster than that,” Maharaj said.
Yesterday the T&T Guardian visited the affected areas and met with Chatham farmer Ramnanan Seeraj, 36, of Syfoo Trace, Granville, who said when he went to tend to his watermelons around 9.30 am he spotted a swarm of locusts hovering over his crops in Bowen Trace. He said they started to attack the corn and pimento plants on his five-acre plot. “The day before they were not there. When I came this morning I see a whole set attacking the corn. I have 12,000 corn trees and they start eating them already.
“I not sure how much losses I have but it will be in the thousands,” Seeraj said. Seeraj said he was happy with the response from the locust eradication unit but expressed concern that the chemicals being used for spraying the insects might adversely affect his crops. “I have to frighten for my crops,” he said. But eradication unit officials assured the chemicals would not destroy crops.
While the T&T Guardian was interviewing Seeraj locusts were hovering above and a buzzing sound was audible. Locusts landed on clothing and had to be slapped away while walking through the forested area to get to Seeraj’s crops.
Situation ‘near under control’
An official from the eradication unit yesterday explained that the locusts have been identified as Moruga locusts (a species found in Moruga) and are migrating to Chatham in search of food. The official said the Food Production outreach centre at Point Fortin and the Cedros sub-office have teamed up to eradicate the locusts but the insects were moving north along the southwestern peninsula. But the official said the situation was near 50 per cent under control.