The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned of an outbreak of the desert locust populations in Sudan and Eritrea which are rapidly spreading along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
According to the FAO’s statement on Friday, the heavy rains and cyclones have triggered the recent surge in desert locust populations. It has called upon all the affected countries to step up their vigilance and control measures in order to contain the destructive infestations, and protect crops from “the world’s most dangerous migratory pest”.
Since October 2018, heavy rains along the Red Sea coastal plains in Eritrea and Sudan have allowed two generations of breeding, leading to a substantial increase in locust populations and the formation of highly mobile swarms.
In mid-January 2019, one swarm at least crossed the Red Sea to the northern coast of Saudi Arabia, and other swarms followed the first one about one week later.
Egypt is in danger of this dangerous migratory pest, as groups of mature winged adults and few swarms also moved north along the coast to southeast Egypt at the end of January.
The migrated swarms have bred in the interior of Saudi Arabia, while two generations of breeding also occurred in the south-eastern Empty Quarter region near the Yemen-Oman border, after unusually heavy rains from cyclones Mekunu and Luban in May and October 2018, respectively.
The FAO added that aerial spraying operations were mounted in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Egypt, treating more than 80,000 hectares since December 2019.
The FAO predicts that breeding will continue in February, generating new swarms. Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 kilometres per day with the wind, while a very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people.