Despite intensive control efforts, the threat of desert locusts in West and Northwest Africa remains "extremely serious," the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.
Crop damage has been reported on pasture, date palm, cereal and vegetation crops in Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Tunisia and Sudan, affecting local farmers and nomads. The citrus crops grown in Morocco and exported to Europe and North America, with an estimated value of $400 million, could be at risk in the coming months.
A locust upsurge of such a dimension can only be controlled by using insecticides, the UN agency said. FAO is applying best practice methods to reduce risks to health and the environment.
"Widespread laying, hatching and band formation are in progress in the spring breeding areas south of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Algeria," said FAO Locust Information Officer, Keith Cressman. "This is the most serious locust situation in the region for ten years," he added.
"It is very difficult to find and treat all of the desert locust infestations because many of them are scattered in remote areas," Cressman said. So far in April, nearly 500,000 acres of locust infestations have been treated in Morocco. In Algeria, locust control operations are under way against swarms that laid eggs in a broad swath of the country from its borders with Morocco in the west and with Tunisia in the east.
In early April, some swarms moved from Morocco across Algeria into western Libya, where around 91,000 acres have been treated. Similar infestations may be present in southern Tunisia, FAO said.
The situation is now less serious in northern Sudan and on the Red Sea Coast in Saudi Arabia, following extensive control operations between December and March, when about half a million acres of infestations were treated.
More than $17 million, provided by international donors, have been spent since October 2003 on locust control operations that have treated nearly 3.5 million acres. Most of this money was provided from national budgets within the affected countries.
The last desert locust plague, in 1987-1989, took several years and more than $300 million before it was brought to an end. An additional $17 million is needed to continue the current campaign during the spring and extend it to breeding areas in the Sahel in West Africa during the summer, FAO said. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )