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Locusts Hit Iran's Southern Provinces

A Kuwaiti vendor shows a locust, sold as food, at a market in Kuwait City on February 21, 2019. (Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP)
A Kuwaiti vendor shows a locust, sold as food, at a market in Kuwait City on February 21, 2019. (Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP)

Iranian Plant Protection Organization (IPPO) warned on Thursday, April 18, that if the necessary budget for fighting desert locusts is not provided within two weeks, nothing could be done, and a locust breakout turns into a new crisis, alongside the flash floods.

According to the government's official news agency (IRNA), desert locusts from Saudi Arabia have penetrated the provinces of Bushehr, Fars, Hormozgan, Kerman, Khuzestan, and Sistan -Baluchestan.

IRNA has cited the head of IPPO, Mohammad Reza Dargahi, as admitting that 200,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Iran are still at the mercy of desert locusts. "Only 40,000 hectares of farmlands in six southern provinces of Iran have so far been prepared for fighting the attacking swarms of desert locusts," Dargahi has lamented.

Furthermore, Dargahi has cautioned that failure in controlling the locusts will jeopardize 1,250 trillion rials (approximately $30 billion) of agricultural products.

Locusts attacking southern provinces of Iran has forced FAO place Iran from "yellow" in the "orange" category, IRNA reported. FAO's decision means Iran should remain vigilant and seriously conduct field surveys, and conduct controlled operations.

The IPPO has demanded 120 billion rials (approximately $3 million) credit line for combating the outbreak, but Iran's Crisis Headquarters has only allocated 100 billion rials for the fight. Earlier, the local news outlets had reported that IPPO applied for the credit last February, but President Hassan Rouhani's Administration has not yet approved the request.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have been placed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the group of countries where crops face the threat of desert locusts. To keep the world informed of the seriousness of the current locust situation, FAO's Locust Group uses a color-coded scheme; green for “calm,” yellow for “caution,” orange for “threat” and red for “danger,” FAO says on its website.

The desert locust is potentially the most dangerous of the locust pests because of the ability of swarms to fly rapidly across great distances. Plagues of desert locusts have threatened agricultural production in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia for centuries. The livelihood of at least one-tenth of the world's human population can be affected by this voracious insect.

In 1961, desert locusts attacked agricultural lands in Iran and damaged nearly 2.5 million hectares of farms across the country. Since desert locusts fly over the Persian Gulf, they are also known also as "Marine Locusts" among Iranians.

In its official website, FAO warned two weeks ago that desert locusts have attacked 80,000 hectares of lands on both sides of the Red Sea in March, and because of the drought, they have migrated to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

FAO's report, at the same time, had warned Iran of a locust outbreak, saying that soon swarms of the locusts would also reach the southern parts of the country. These locusts are capable of flying 200 kilometers (approximately 125 miles) per day. The greedy creatures that swiftly multiply destroy all the vegetation on their way.

Meanwhile, several local news outlets have warned of a "famine" breakout in Iran. The state-run Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) has also quoted the deputy head of Agriculture Jihad

Department in Bushehr, southern Iran, Khosro Omrani, as saying, "The second wave of attacking migrant locusts is expected to commence sometime in next May."

Regardless of Dargahi's comments on the possibility of repelling the locusts, Omrani believes that the migrant insects will remain for at least four years in Iran, and a well-prepared plan is needed to contain them.

According to IRNA, a swarm of desert locusts can easily cover 1,000 square kilometers (roughly 390 square miles), and they can consume 100,000 tons of vegetation per day.