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Jordan still at risk of locust infestation — ministry official

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Feb 24,2020 - Last updated at Feb 24,2020

AMMAN — A locust outbreak in the Kingdom is still possible in the coming period, according to Setan Al Sarhan, head of the plant protection directorate at the Agriculture Ministry.

Swarms of locusts have spread to Al Qassim and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Sarhan told The Jordan Times on Monday over the phone.

The official noted that extermination operations are under way as the swarms move to the Gulf countries.

"The wind's direction changes on a daily basis, and the more the winds move opposite the direction of the swarms, the safer the Kingdom is, but there is no telling what could happen, which is why concerns are still valid," Sarhan said.

The swarms are still 500 kilometres away from the Kingdom, but the more temperatures rise and winds blow south, the more the danger of infestation rises, he said.

The Agriculture Ministry has prepared a precautionary plan for the potential locust outbreak, Sarhan said, noting that cadres have been trained to address the challenge, while machines and pesticides have been readied for dispatch.

"We are cooperating with the Jordan Armed Forces and especially the Royal Jordanian Air Force, as machines can be attached to the planes for use when necessary," Sarhan said.

The locust swarms originate from the Horn of Africa and around the Red Sea, and every three months, the locust population multiplies 20-fold, he said, noting that the numbers in Ethiopia and Kenya have reached “unprecedented levels” in the past 75 years. 

"The United Nations requested donor parties to provide $75 million to control the current outbreak, but the support still has not reached $20 million," Sarhan said, warning that if the swarms are not controlled now, they could multiply 500-fold, reaching billions of locusts by June.

"Such a pest population could eat 35 tonnes of food per day, enough for 35,000 people," he said, concluding that the current figures have reached epidemic levels and must be controlled swiftly. 

The Ministry of Agriculture last Thursday called on international organisations and countries in the region to exterminate the current generation of the desert locust in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen.

Heading a meeting to discuss the desert locust, Agriculture Minister Ibrahim Shahahdeh said that the ministry is operating under a response plan based on reports issued by the Desert Locust Monitoring and Control Centre at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

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