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FAO Convenes Conference on Locusts, Now Entering Second Generation

Feb. 17, 2020 (EIRNS)—The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has convened a meeting on the locust crisis, which will be held in Jordan for the entire week of Feb. 17-21. Announced last week, all affected countries have been invited, with the stated goal of “review[ing] the current situation with the aim of intensifying survey and control operations.” The FAO now has a Desert Locust Update page on their website, monitoring the expanding crisis.

Revealed in the latest FAO Update is that the pestilence is now about to enter into a second generation, with “breeding in progress throughout the Horn of Africa.” Countries including ground-zero of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea are now reporting signs of egg laying, something also noted farther north, in Egypt; and in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and even Iran—to which it spread from Pakistan/India—and where “immature groups” of locusts have been spotted, already capable of forming small swarms.

A report in South China Morning Post gives an insight into the situation likely being repeated in other affected areas. Uganda is “scrambling” to respond to the outbreak, the paper says, as swarms entered the country over the weekend. Within hours, an “emergency government meeting” had been convened, with the military being immediately deployed to help with on-the-ground efforts.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu began a three-day tour of Pakistan on Feb. 15 meeting with President Arif Alvi before travelling to the Punjab region, where he pledged assistance, describing the situation as a “severe outbreak.” Along with Pakistan’s Federal Minister of National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar, the two endorsed the creation of a $500,000 Technical Cooperation Program “to make FAO’s technical expertise available to national experts,” according to FAO coverage.

Press coverage on India indicates that, while northern regions around Punjab sustained significant damage, on the whole the threat has receded, likely because of changing weather conditions. Reports the north India daily, Tribune, “The threat of locusts in Fazilka, Muktsar and Bathinda districts of Punjab, adjoining Rajasthan, is not over yet. The locusts may resurface, especially in the summer when there are dust storms and the weather is conducive for these insects, say agriculture experts.”

As the swarms approach the deserts of western China, Xinhua today quoted Zhang Zehua, a researcher at the Institute of Plant Protection of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, to the effect that China is likely safe—for now. According to Zhang, the “inland areas” of China are protected by the arid Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which forms a natural geographic barrier to their progress. However, if the overseas Desert Locust plague persists, the probability of locusts entering China in the summer will sharply increase. In the meantime, “China has formed a mature locust prevention and control response mechanism and has established a national four-tier locust-monitoring and early warning system,” writes Xinhua.

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