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Spotlight: Iran prepared to counter new wave of locust plague


TEHRAN, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Survived from the locust plague in 2019, Iran is gearing up efforts to deal with the new threats of the pests.

Iran is prepared to control the impending swarms of locust to the south of the country, an agricultural expert said in an interview.

Mohammad Reza Mir, the agricultural expert in the Plant Protection Organization of Iran said that the desert locusts, which are expected to invade the parts of the country, are the same ones that swarmed Iran in January 2019 but this time only 20-30 percent of the population of this marauding pest will enter the country.

"As we speak, the southern Hormozgan and southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan Provinces are dealing with the pest on more than 2,000 hectares of land," Mir said.

He noted that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has predicted that swarms could also invade Iran's central Kerman Province and Jazmourian Lake region, an inland basin in southeast Iran in their new wave of migration.

"We are well equipped and prepared to fight these pest," Mir said, adding that pesticides have been adequately supplied.

Given Iran's previous experiences in fighting locusts, the imminent invasion of the locusts is expected to cause the least damage to farms and orchards, he said.

The first generation of desert locusts attacked Iran in April 2019. During the previous locust attack, Plant Protection Organization of Iran battled the pest across 750,000 hectares, according to Financial Tribune daily.

At that time, Iran's provinces of Hormozgan, Sistan and Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Bushehr, Fars, Kerman, Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad, South Khorasan and Ilam were swarmed by desert locusts.

Former Iranian Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati has said that locust attack can threaten Iran's food security, if proper measures are not taken promptly.

According to official IRNA news agency, Mohammad Reza Dargahi, the head of Plant Protection Organization of Iran, has also warned that failure in controlling the locusts will jeopardize billions of U.S. dollars of Iranian agricultural products.

The desert locust is among the most dangerous pests. They can destroy all greenery, including grains, fodder, vegetables, tree barks and even weeds on their path.

Iran has also an experience of the pest attacks on the farms of the country in 1963-64 and 1993-94. The former caused heavy damage to the country's farms and agricultural production.

The pest is indigenous to Saudi Arabia, Morocco and African countries, and enters Iran by crossing the Gulf.

The new wave of hopper bands and locust migration have begun their seasonal migration westwards with a few crossing the Arabian Sea to northern Oman, and is likely to continue to southwest Pakistan, southern Iran and northern Oman, and decline thereafter, according to the recent FAO report.

Countries should remain alert and be prepared, it said, adding that breeding could be delayed in some areas by winter temperatures.

FAO has for now placed Iran in the group of countries that have to take caution regarding the pest, meaning there is a potential threat to its crops.

Locusts attacking southern provinces of Iran in April last year forced FAO to place Iran from "yellow" in the "orange" category. FAO's decision means Iran should remain vigilant, and seriously conduct field surveys and controlled operations.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have been placed by the FAO in the group of countries where crops face the threat of desert locusts. According to Financial Tribune daily, some 80-billion-U.S.-dollar worth of agricultural products are produced in Iran annually, 75 billion U.S. dollars of which are consumed domestically.

Iran currently meets 85 percent of its agricultural needs domestically and the rest is procured through imports.


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