Iran has called in its military to help fight locusts that have invaded the south of the country, threatening to destroy crops worth billions of dollars, according to Iranian media reports.
- The area affected is expected to increase to 1 million hectares
- Iran’s Plant Protection Organization says anti-locust operations has so far prevented “any damage”
- Swarms can devour up to 200 tonnes of crops per day
The locust invasion, seen as the worst in decades, compounds problems facing Iran, already hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak at home and seeing its oil exports sink to a record low as the crisis sharpens the impact of US sanctions, which further limit shipments.
Mohammad Reza Mir, a spokesman for the ministry’s Plant Protection Organization (PPO), said the desert locusts had attacked more than 200,000 hectares of orchards and farmland in seven of Iran’s 31 provinces, the semi-official news agency ILNA reported.
The affected areas, stretching from eastern Iran on the border with Pakistan to the south-western border with Iraq, were likely to soon increase to 1 million hectares, Mr Mir told ILNA.
“The military have promised to help fight the desert locusts, including by providing all-terrain vehicles for use in areas which are hard to access,” Mir told ILNA.
“Last year the military provided personnel and vehicles, and that was a big help.”
Mr Mir said anti-locust operations had so far prevented “any damage”, without giving details.
PPO’s head, Mohammad Reza Dargahi, said last month that locust swarms threatened billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural products across six provinces in southern Iran, the daily Financial Tribune reported.
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates agricultural losses to neighbouring Pakistan from locusts could be as high as $3.4 billion for winter crops alone.
The swarms have been travelling from the Horn of Africa through Oman and on to Iran and Pakistan.
While, locust swarms are not new in East Africa or the Middle East, climate scientists say erratic weather linked to climate change has created ideal conditions for the insects to surge in numbers not seen in a quarter of a century.
This year’s swarms are expected to be much larger than in 2019, because their numbers increase on average 20-fold with each generation.
They travel in swarms of between 30 million to 50 million insects, covering a distance of 150 kilometres and devouring up to 200 tonnes of crops per day.
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