Desert Locust Swarms in Yemen Seen Potentially Dangerous by FAO

Desert locusts are forming swarms in Yemen, with the situation potentially dangerous after rain boosted summer breeding, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

The insects are reported in remote and isolated areas of north and central Yemen, with breeding still in progress and hatching and swarm formation expected to continue this month, the Rome-based FAO wrote on its Locust Watch website yesterday.

“These areas are extremely difficult to access, and it is here where an outbreak occured in 2007 that led to a swarm invasion in the Horn of Africa,” the FAO wrote. “It appears that widespread breeding may have occurred in the interior.”

Should several days of northerly winds develop over the Gulf of Aden, locust swarms could reach northern Somalia or eastern Ethiopia, according to the report. A swarm of locusts covering a square kilometer (0.4 square mile) can eat between 80 and 160 metric tons of crops a day, based on calculations using FAO data.

Most breeding in Yemen hasn’t been confirmed as ground surveys are difficult to perform due to insecurity and limited resources, the FAO wrote. Many areas can’t be sprayed because of beekeeping and insecurity, the agency said.

“Consequently, adult groups and small swarms are likely to escape detection and control,” the FAO said. “As vegetation dries out, they are expected to move to the coastal plains along the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Neighboring countries should be on alert.”

Yemen is the Middle East’s poorest country, and most people are employed in agriculture or herding, according to the CIA World Factbook.

An adult desert locust can eat its own weight of about 2 grams (0.07 ounce) daily, and swarms can cover several hundred square kilometers, with 40 million to 80 million of the insects per square kilometer, according to the FAO.

Desert-locust distribution can extend over 60 countries during plague years, covering about 29 million square kilometers, according to the UN agency.

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