Yemen on alert to combat locusts [Archives:2007/1029/Front Page]

March 1 2007

By:Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, Feb. 28 ) Yemen is preparing to face potential desert locust swarms following a warning by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization last week, according to an official at Yemen's Ministry of Agriculture.

“We've put in place an emergency plan to combat a potential locust outbreak following reports of a spate in nearby Eritrea and Sudan in December 2006,” said Abdu Far'e Al-Rumaih, general director of the agriculture ministry's Desert Locusts Control Center. “Last week, we received reports that Sudan has already combat desert locusts, so we're expecting the locust infestation from Eritrea,” he noted, adding that the main areas possibly affected by infestation are in Hajjah, Hodeidah and Abyan governorates.

Al-Rumaih stressed the importance of fighting the locusts in desert areas before their arrival at the agricultural arrears. “Yemen could lose YR 164 billion [$840 million] if these locusts plague our crops,” he predicted, adding that four teams currently are monitoring the situation: two in Hodeidah governorate, one in Hajjah and the fourth in Abyan.

“There will be 42 teams in all, as set out in the emergency plan, and all teams will be used once the locusts arrive in Yemen,” he explained.

Last Friday, FAO reported that locust numbers continued increasing in January along the Eritrean coast and adjacent coastal areas of Sudan. Other Red Sea and Gulf of Aden countries could face significant infestations of the crop-devouring insects this winter due to unusually good rains and favorable ecological conditions. The U.N. body warned that Yemen could experience a locust infestation either at the end of February or the beginning of March.

“Small-scale breeding is in progress in coastal areas of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and reports of locust concentrations on the northwest coast of Somalia have been received by FAO,” the organization said in a statement.

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

Yemen experienced locust infestations in 1986, 1987 and 1993, which was a particularly serious outbreak. Additional outbreaks in 2002 and 2004 were successfully controlled.