Desert Locust Infestations Seen Worse in Red Sea Area, FAO Says

Desert locust infestations are set to worsen along the Red Sea as a second generation of the pest insects breeds in Yemen and Sudan through January, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

Locusts are grouping up in the two countries as well as Mauritania after breeding earlier this year, and a few swarms have formed in Sudan and Yemen, the Rome-based FAO wrote on its Locust Watch website. An outbreak in Eritrea last month was followed by undetected breeding, according to the report.

The situation along the Red Sea coast is “threatening,” the FAO said. 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.

“All efforts are required to reduce locust numbers and the potential threat to crops in the affected countries,” the FAO wrote. “Breeding in December and January will cause locust infestations to increase further.”

Winter breeding of the insects may occur in northwest Somalia after a tropical cyclone brought heavy rain and flooding there in November.

An adult desert locust can eat its own weight of about 2 grams (0.07 ounce) daily, and swarms can cover several 100 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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