UN warns of locust surge on both sides of Red Sea

A member of the FAO with a locust at a camp in Madagascar. The FAO uses insecticides to reduce the threat of swarms of the voracious feeders, which can eat their own body weight in a day. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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UN warns of locust surge on both sides of Red Sea

  • Control operations have treated nearly 85,000 ha (200,000 acres) since December including 30,000 ha in the past two weeks in Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, the FAO said

GENEVA: A locust outbreak in Sudan and Eritrea is spreading rapidly along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Friday, flagging a possible threat to crops and food security.
“Good rains along the Red Sea coastal plains in Eritrea and Sudan have allowed two generations of breeding since October, leading to a substantial increase in locust populations and the formation of highly mobile swarms,” it said.
At least one swarm had crossed to the northern coast of Saudi Arabia in mid-January, with further swarms a week later.
Rains from two cyclones in 2018 had triggered breeding of locusts in the Empty Quarter region of Saudi Arabia, near the Yemen-Oman border, and a few swarms from two generations of breeding had reached the UAE and southern Iran.
There was a risk of further spread toward the India-Pakistan border, the FAO statement said.
“The next three months will be critical to bring the locust situation under control before the summer breeding starts,” FAO locust expert Keith Cressman said in the statement.
“The further spread of the current outbreak depends on two major factors — effective control and monitoring measures in locust breeding areas of Sudan, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries, and rainfall intensity between March and May along both sides of the Red Sea and in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Control operations have treated nearly 85,000 ha (200,000 acres) since December including 30,000 ha in the past two weeks in Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, the FAO said.
Control measures are also underway in Iran after at least one swarm arrived on the southern coast at the end of January, it said.
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.
In an emailed comment to Reuters, Cressman said the last major desert locust upsurge was in 2003-2005 when more than 12 million hectares were treated in west and northwest Africa, incurring a cost of about $750 million including food aid.


Turkey unafraid of US sanctions over S-400 deal: Foreign minister

Updated 29 min 1 sec ago
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Turkey unafraid of US sanctions over S-400 deal: Foreign minister

  • US has given Turkey a deadline of July 31 to drop the purchase
  • Relations between Washington and Ankara have deteriorated over multiple issues

ANKARA: Turkey said Monday it does not fear US sanctions over its decision to buy a Russian missile defense system that has frayed ties between the NATO allies.
The US has given Turkey a deadline of July 31 to drop the purchase of the S-400 system, or face sanctions and removal from its F-35 fighter jet program.
“Regardless of whatever sanctions there may be, whatever the messages from America, we’ve bought the S-400,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.
He said Turkey was working on the date for the system’s delivery, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said would be in the first half of July.
“If there’s an attack on Turkey tomorrow, we cannot expect NATO to protect us because NATO’s capacity would only protect 30 percent of Turkey’s airspace,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey will no longer allow other countries to dictate its defense purchases, he said.
Relations between Washington and Ankara have deteriorated over multiple issues, including the S-400 deal and US support for a Syrian Kurdish militia viewed as terrorists by Turkey.
Sanctions could cause damage at a time when Turkey’s economy is already struggling.
Its currency lost a third of its value last year, in part due to temporary US sanctions over the detention of an American pastor.
Turkey has plans to buy 100 F-35s, and has lucrative contracts to build parts of the jet.
Erdogan said last week he would use his “good” relationship with US counterpart Donald Trump to defuse the crisis when they meet at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan this week.