Iran battles massive locust attacks damaging farmlands

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TEHRAN, Iran

Authorities in Iran have mounted a major operation to fight swarms of migratory desert locusts that have attacked farmlands in southern and western provinces of the country.

It is the second consecutive year the massive locust swarms, coming from the Arabian Peninsula, threaten widespread destruction of agricultural products in different parts of Iran.

Saeed Morin, the chief of Iran’s Plant Protection Organization (PPO), Sunday confirmed that the attack of locusts arriving last week spans nearly 2,000 hectares of land.

He said the locusts have attacked farmlands in at least 13 cities in the country’s southwestern provinces of Khuzestan and Bushehr and in the western province of Ilam, bordering Iraq.

Last year, desert locusts had affected more than 54,600 hectares of land in the provinces of Hormozgan, Sistan and Baluchistan, Khuzestan, Fars, Bushehr, and Kerman, dubbed as the worst locust invasion in half a century.

Morin said locusts this year arrived from western and northwestern parts of Saudi Arabia, unlike previous years when they had originated from eastern and central parts of the country.

This change of direction, he noted, is likely to affect southern Iranian provinces more in the coming weeks, adding that Iranian authorities are prepared to battle the locusts, and have already requested additional funds from the government.

The operation, which is expected to continue till September, has been affected by high wind speed in recent days in southern parts of the country, officials said.

Desert locusts are yellow-colored insects, which grow up to 10 cm, and are deemed the “most destructive migratory pest in the world”.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, locusts pose a “serious menace to agricultural production in Africa, the Near East, and Southwest Asia”.

According to experts, a swarm of locusts that covers one sq km contains nearly 80 million locusts, who eat as much food in one day as over 35,000 people.

These swarms of locusts mainly originate from Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen and spread to parts of East Africa and West Asia, including Iran. From Iran, they gradually move toward South Asia, including India and Pakistan.

Last year, India had reached out to Iran and Pakistan for a “coordinated regional response” to the attacks of desert locusts.

Last week, New Delhi sent a second consignment of 250,000 liters of pesticide to Iran through the Chabahar Port as part of the regional response to the problem. The first consignment was sent last year.

According to reports, Iran and Pakistan are also in talks to coordinate efforts in battling the problem that costs regional countries billions of dollars every year.

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