US supports pest control in Pakistan’s rice supply chain

Islamabad: The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in conjunction with the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and Kansas State University completed the first in a series of workshops on controlling crop-damaging pests in Punjab province. One pest the workshop addressed was the invasive khapra beetle, which can cause up to 30% losses to rice crops annually in Pakistan.

The khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium) is one of the most destructive invasive species in the world and poses a threat to food security. Pakistani rice exports are frequently rejected by key trading partners due to the potential risks of accidental khapra beetle infestations. The program was the first in a series of activities that will lead to the development of more comprehensive guidelines for mitigating khapra beetle in the rice value chain in Pakistan. Reducing the pest can lead to more secure food supplies and increase exports.

The workshop consisted of consultations between U.S. experts and Pakistani representatives from the public and private sectors, followed by a survey of rice fields, millers, packing and storage facilities in Punjab province. Based on those observations, the experts focused on improved post-harvest management practices, which could help farmers, processors, and exporters prevent infestations of the khapra beetle. Experts said such practices can prevent the destruction and waste of crops, leading to less waste and improved food security.

“People always say the answer to food security is to grow more crops,” said visiting expert Dr. Bhadriraju Subramanyam, Endowed Professor of Postharvest Protection at Kansas State University. “I think it’s to save more.” This training was part of the ongoing Phytosanitary Risk Management (PRM) Program between USDA and CABI. The PRM Program engages provincial and federal government officials, universities, farmers, and industry stakeholders in the provinces of Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh to improve pest management in order to improve farmer incomes and increase agricultural trade opportunities.

To date, the PRM Program has focused on developing and implementing low-cost methods for pest control on the farm including the use of biocontrol agents, improving post-harvest pest management practices in key value chains, and building the capacity of the Government of Pakistan to conduct risk assessments and certify exports of agricultural commodities based on international standards.

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