April 16, 2019 – Swarms of desert locusts (short-horned grasshoppers) have attacked farmland in the southern and southeastern provinces of Hormozgan, Bushehr, Kerman, Fars and Sistan, and Baluchestan as well as Qeshm Island.
Millions of locusts which started their migration on January 21 in Saudi Arabia have traveled through Qatar, Oman and southern parts of Iran, ravaging farmland and destroying crops on their path. Authorities have warned of a second wave of 50 million locusts attacking close to 200,000 hectares of agricultural lands in the same regions in coming days.
At least 25 provinces, including many in the southern part of Iran, are still struggling with the aftermath of massive flash floods that have destroyed close to 100,000 homes, displaced 230,000 people and incurred $3.1 billion in damages to farms across the country. Attacks by desert locusts have decimated the few crops that had survived floodwaters.
“We took immediate measures to minimize the damage, but the government has allocated no funds towards controlling locust swarms,” Saeed Moin Namini, the director of the Plant Protection Organization’s (IPPO) office for Agricultural Pest Control, said. “The National Disaster Management Organization (NDMO) had initially allocated $2.9 million towards locust control efforts but reduced the amount to $2.3 million. However, we have not seen a penny of it yet.”
Mr. Moin Namini added: “A swarm of locusts can travel up to 400 kilometers a day, eating all vegetation in its path. We have successfully cleared 25,000 hectares of farmland of locusts so far. Short-horned grasshoppers are the most dangerous species of locusts. Desert locusts have ravaged our county in the past, with the last swarms occurring in 1961 and 1963 which nearly wiped out crops and farm products in many provinces.”
Moin Namini noted: “Swarms will continue to migrate from Saudi Arabia to the southern and southeastern provinces of Iran. Locusts are here to mate. They do not feed while laying eggs. We expect another swarm of 50 million locusts to arrive in the same regions soon. Each female locust lays up to 400 eggs which will have a catastrophic impact on all agricultural products.”
Moin Namini explained: “We have saved nearly 33,000 hectares of farmland so far. Given the size of the next swarm, we will need to protect close to 200 million hectares of land. The severe drought in the past few years had lowered the population of locusts. However, we have seen a significant rise in the number of locusts because of the high volume of rainfall this year. Locusts migrate from the Red Sea through Saudi Arabia before arriving in Iran. Saudis have done nothing to prevent the swarm from reaching Iran.”
“Recent torrential rains are the main cause of attacks by locusts,” Ali Bagherzadeh, the director of Hormozgan Agriculture Jihad Organizations’ office for plant protection said. “We do not know the size of the next swarm of locusts heading our wave.”
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]