Locusts threaten neighbouring countries [Archives:2007/1079/Local News]

August 23 2007

SANA'A, Aug. 22 ) The serious locust blight currently affecting Yemen could spread to neighbouring countries such as Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Mansour Al-Hawshabi confirmed this week.

These countries, therefore, should support Yemen's current efforts in combating locusts in the hope that the swarms can be contained and not reach neighbouring countries.

Al Hawshabi praised FAO and the UN for their efforts to help Yemen. The FAO has been supporting the Desert Locust Control Centre for the past tens years . And Since June the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund has given Yemen some US$ 2.4. million.

Hashim Al -Shami, FAO-UN's representative in Yemen said that locusts swarms had now reached the central area. Their presence could be exacerbated by recent rain fall both sides of the Red Sea which aids breeding particularly in Tihama areas.

He underlined the seriousness of the current situation by pointed out that the swarms could have a devastating affect on the country's agriculture production. Food prices increased last year by 29 per cent and any shortages caused by locust damage could further affect prices. . Some 30 per cent of the country is already considered “fragile in terms of food security”, he said.

“A dollar spent on survey and control of desert locust infestation could have a high rate of return and sustain food security and availability as well as preventing further escalation of unemployment rates”.

The locust blight has started in January this year along the Eritrean coast and adjacent coastal areas of Sudan. According to Abdu Far'e Al-Rumaih, general director of the agriculture ministry's Desert Locusts Control, Yemen has been facing significant infestations of the crop-devouring insects due to unusually good rains since March.

There are two types of locusts in Yemen: desert locusts and local breeding locusts, however, the latter are not considered any real danger because they exist in small numbers, Al-Rumahi indicated.

Yemen witnessed similar locust invasions in 1986, 1987 and the most serious outbreak in 1993. Other invasions occurred in 2002 and 2004; however, they were successfully controlled.