Swarms of locust in Eilat – Flickr/Niv Singer Swarms of locust in Eilat – Flickr/Niv Singer

As danger looms, Egypt prepares for probable locust attack

Mon, Feb. 18, 2019
CAIRO – 18 February 2019: Egypt has maintained the highest level of readiness in the border areas, especially on the Red Sea coasts, with over 50 control bases, following international warnings about a probable locust attack on the country.

A locust outbreak in Sudan and Eritrea is spreading rapidly along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said on Friday, flagging a possible threat to crops and food security.

Head of Egyptian Agriculture Ministry's Central Department for Pest Control Mamdouh al-Sebae told Erem News that the concerned authorities are ready to bring the locust situation under control, as swarms are expected to head to Egypt in case both Saudi Arabia and Sudan manage to resist them.

The swarms are capable of destroying agricultural crops in record time, Sebae said.

Sebae explained that Egypt is fully coordinating with the FAO on the preparations and plans to target the desert locust threat through identifying the places where they exist first.

Egypt has prepared 55 integrated bases throughout the country to control locusts, including bases in 13 major areas covering the country's borders, Sebae said, adding that a locust-swarms attack is a transient danger that Egypt will manage to deal with.

He added that the bases are operating for 24 hours a day without stopping, through both monitoring and control.

Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind and adult insects can consume roughly their own weight in fresh food per day. A very small swarm eats as much in one day as about 35,000 people, posing a devastating threat to crops and food security.

Monitoring the situation since late last year, Abdel NabiDesouki, Agriculture Ministry top official, told Erem News in December that Ministry of Agriculture is setting a plan to combat locust attacks across the Egyptian border.

He added that failing to respond to locust attacks for two days would cause the state to lose LE 20 billion ($113.9 million) in two days only, which is more than 10 percent of the agriculture's gross national product of the country.

The plan to bring the locust situation under control requires huge funds and big efforts, especially as Egypt has a very large desert border, Desouki said, adding that the ministry,however, has started a proactive plan since early September which will continue until April 2019.

Earlier attacks

In 1954, millions of red locusts attacked residential and agricultural areas, and destroyed all the crops in these areas. This was part of a regional attack that took place between 1954 and 1955, when 50 locust warms were recorded, destroying 250,000 tons of maize.

While in 1968, Egypt witnessed an attack from locust swarms coming from the Arabian Peninsula through the Red Sea,reportedly without causing any damage, as they did not manage to exceed the eastern desert areas of the country.

Many swarms of desert locusts later crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Mauritania and reached the Caribbean area, cutting more than 5,000 kilometers in 10 days in 1988. Around 68 swarms attacked the Egyptian territory. However, the attack did not exceed the mountainous and desert areas of the Egyptian border, as reported.

In 2004, Egypt experienced a sharp attack from the red locusts again where large swarms could invadeCairo, Beheira, Menoufia and Alexandria. The major attack however did not reportedly cause harm, because it was the type of active locusts that do not settle in one place for more than a night.

In 2007 and 2011,locust swarms attacked the Arabian Peninsula, while their remnants attacked Egypt, but could not cause any harm due to their small number. The attacking locusts were dealt with easily.

The last of these attacks was in 2013, where red locusts launched an attack across the southern border of the country and could access some Red Sea cities, in addition toHalayeb Triangle on the Egypt-Sudan border.


 
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