Locust outbreak threatens Penal crops

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A number of locusts gather on a vehicle. –

A plague of locusts has swept into Penal, destroying hundreds of crops and plants and driving residents to stay indoors.

They said over the past week, they started seeing locusts (young hoppers) on their crops, and the numbers increased within a few hours.

A resident identified only as Reesa said the pests are making residents’ lives miserable.

“They are going into the water tanks, causing the water to turn green. We cannot do laundry because they are coming into the water.

“We buy and sell fruits wholesale and the locus are damaging everything,” she said.

“We are locked up. We do not have air-conditioning, so we have to stay in the heat right through.”

Chairman of the Penal Debe Regional Corporation Gowtam Maharaj said the affected area, which is a farming community, borders Barrackpore and Moruga.

Maharaj, who is also a farmer, referred to the outbreak as a “home invasion,” as residents are locked inside while the locusts are outside on the house and all over.

From what he saw, the pests were in the young stage and were in the millions at Platanite and Julien Traces.

“They are nibbling right now, and once they get a little bigger, they would be completely devouring everything.

“Platanite, Julien, Poodai Lagoon are food-basket areas. They supply goods to the markets in Debe, Penal, Barrackpore and Siparia. This is a grave situation and should not be taken lightly,” Maharaj said.

He recalled that a few years ago, there was an infestation in the Rio Claro area and the government had intervened. There was a migration to Moruga.

He said Penal appears to be now a hatching area, as the pests are coming out in the millions from the nearby forest.

Maharaj said he contacted the agriculture ministry and a representative did a drive-by in the area.

“But it is important that the ministry act swiftly. We are throwing our hands in the air and appealing for help to get rid of them. This corporation stands ready to work with them.

“The ministry’s extension office in Penal needs to be outfitted with the requisite capacity and capability to be able to address this asap. “

Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister Kazim Hosein told Newsday the information on the outbreak had been sent to the permanent secretary for immediate and urgent attention.

Locusts gather on a wall –