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Locusts in Madagascar Seen by FAO Possibly Causing Food Crisis

Locusts in Madagascar are “largely uncontrolled” and a food crisis may emerge, with two-thirds of the country infested by September, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

The island, where the main staple is rice, needs $22 million for emergency controls, the FAO said in a statement on its website today. It has issued warnings about the locusts and called for financial support since August.

“If we don’t act now, the plague could last years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said. “This could very well be a last window of opportunity to avert an extended crisis.”

The locust plague, which has infested over half of Madagascar’s cultivated land and pastures, poses a food and livelihood threat to 13 million people, or 60 percent of the island’s population, according to the FAO. About 80 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

Rice production losses are estimated to be as much as 630,000 metric tons, or 25 percent of the country’s demand, the FAO said.

Locusts have destroyed 40 percent to 70 percent of the country’s rice and corn crops and more in some areas, according to the FAO report.

Funding needs to be allocated by July to start an anti-locust campaign in September, otherwise the plague could last for several years, the FAO said. More than $41.5 million is needed over the next three years to deal with the plague.

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