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Desert Locusts Threaten Egypt, Saudi Arabia as Swarms Lay Eggs

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia face a threatening desert-locust situation as winter breeding of the pest insect is in progress, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

Small swarms arrived on the Red Sea coast last month from summer-breeding areas in the interior of Sudan and laid eggs that recently hatched, the UN’s Rome-based agency wrote on its Locust Watch website today.

Egypt is Africa’s biggest wheat grower, with expected output of 8.5 million metric tons in 2012-13, according to the International Grains Council. An adult desert locust can eat its own weight in food daily, according to the FAO.

“Egg laying is continuing in Egypt and control operations are in progress,” the UN agency wrote. “So far, infestations are confined.”

In southeast Egypt and northeast Sudan, immature locusts known as hoppers are forming bands, while on Saudi Arabia’s coast north of Jeddah control operations are in progress against hoppers, with more hatching expected in coming weeks, the FAO said.

Ground-control operations continue in northern Niger and western Mauritania against hoppers and adult locusts, the FAO said. In Algeria, control teams treated small groups of hoppers and egg-laying adults along the country’s southern border with Mali and Niger.

“Strict vigilance should continue in Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Libya during the coming weeks to detect any groups or swarms coming from the Sahel,” the FAO wrote. “Thereafter the threat should subside.”

Swarms containing tens of millions of locusts can fly as much as 150 kilometers (93 miles) a day, and a female locust can lay 300 eggs in her lifetime, according to the agency.

Desert locust distribution can extend over 60 countries during plagues, covering about 29 million square kilometers or about a fifth of the world’s land, according to the FAO.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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