Iran Gears Up to Battle Desert Locusts
EghtesadOnline: Groups of desert locusts have reappeared in southeast Iran.
Despite intensive control operations, hopper bands and swarms continue to form along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border where an unprecedented third generation of breeding started in November.
Some swarms have begun their seasonal migration westwards with a few crossing the Arabian Sea to northern Oman, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned, according to Financial Tribune.
"Swarm migration is likely to continue during December to southwest Pakistan, southern Iran and northern Oman, and decline thereafter. Countries should remain alert and be prepared. Subsequent breeding could be delayed in some areas by winter temperatures," reads the FAO Locust Watch report.
FAO has for now placed Iran in the group of countries that have to take caution regarding the pest, meaning there is a potential threat to its crops.
Other countries placed in the same category are Oman, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Somalia and Eritrea.
To keep the world informed of the seriousness of the current locust situation, FAO's Locust Group uses a color-coded scheme; green for “calm”, yellow for “caution”, orange for “threat” and red for “danger”.
Spokesman of the Plant Protection Organization of Iran, affiliated to the Agriculture Ministry, says these desert locusts are the same ones that swarmed the country in January but this time only 20-30% of the population of this marauding pest will enter the country.
“As we speak, the southern Hormozgan and southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Provinces are dealing with the pest on more than 2,000 hectares of land,” Mohammad Reza Mir was also quoted as saying by ILNA.
The official noted that FAO has predicted swarms could invade Kerman Province and Jazmourian Lake region—an inland basin in southeast Iran.
“We are well equipped and prepared to fight the pest,” he said, adding that pesticides have been adequately supplied.
Mir said the main battle phase will begin in late December and given Iran’s previous experiences in fighting locusts, the invasion is expected to cause the least damage to farms and orchards.
The first generation of desert locusts attacked Iran about a year ago. FAO alerted Iran of probable locust attacks on Jan. 21.
During the previous locust attack, Plant Protection Organization of Iran battled the pest across 750,000 hectares.
Iran’s provinces of Hormozgan, Sistan-Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Bushehr, Fars, Kerman, Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad, South Khorasan and Ilam were swarmed by desert locusts in April.
The pest was first spotted in Hormozgan Province’s Bandar Lengeh on Jan. 4.
Former agriculture minister, Mahmoud Hojjati, said at the time that locust attack can threaten Iran’s food security, if proper measures are not taken promptly.
“Some $80 billion worth of agricultural products are produced in Iran annually, $75 billion of which are consumed domestically,” he was quoted as saying.
Hojjati has noted that Iran currently meets 85% of its agricultural needs domestically and the rest is procured through imports.
The desert locust is among the most dangerous pests. They can destroy all greenery, including grains, fodder, vegetables, tree barks and even weeds on their path. The pest has attacked Iran’s farms in the fiscal 1963-64 and 1993-94. The former caused heavy damage to the country’s farms and agricultural production.
The pest is indigenous to Saudi Arabia, Morocco and African countries, and enters Iran by crossing the Persian Gulf.