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‘Larger locust swarms are expected to descend on Jordan’s south’


The Jordan Times


AMMAN — The Ministry of Agriculture announced on Sunday the elimination of a locust swarm that entered the Kingdom from its south-eastern borders with Saudi Arabia, and added that larger swarms are expected to hit the country’s south.
The prevalence of south-eastern winds this week created favourable conditions that allowed desert locust swarms to move towards the country from Saudi Arabia, according to ministry’s spokesperson, Lawrence Majali, who noted that the ministry has announced a state of emergency to control the desert locust outbreak.
An aircraft from the Royal Air Force sprayed pesticides on Sunday morning to eliminate the first locust swarm that hit the country’s “Mnawekh” area, located 30 kilometres to the east of Jafer in the north-eastern part of the Kingdom.
Minister of Agriculture Ibrahim Shahahdeh said on Sunday in a press statement that the swarm covered an area of
“The swarm was eliminated,” Shahahdeh said in the statement.
However, inspection teams discovered that a new swarm, much larger than the one that was eliminated, has entered the country, according to Shahahdeh, who noted that the ministry and the Royal Air Force will eliminate the new swarm on Tuesday morning.
Desert locusts are short-horned grasshoppers that can form large swarms and pose a major threat to agricultural production, livelihoods, food security, the environment and economic development, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) website.
Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150km a day with the wind. Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime, while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day, about two grammes every day. A very small swarm eats approximately the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people, and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas, according to the FAO.
Majali underscored that more swarms are expected to enter the country, but highlighted that the ministry has prepared an early-detection and control plan to stop the pest from spreading.
“The outbreak of locusts this year is attributed to several factors, including heavy rain during winter that increased the green cover and because of the south-eastern winds which facilitated the movement of locust swarms to Jordan,” Majali told The Jordan Times.
The minister is supervising the operations room in Al Jafer, while the ministry is hosting the main operations room which is coordinating control efforts with several partners.
“One aircraft is now being used for spraying pesticides, but the number can increase if there is a need for that. There are several teams of specialised people working on ground now, in addition to over 150 scientists and experts,” Majali said.
The ministry official said that the ministry will ask for the assistance of specialised international agencies if needed.
“We will approach the FAO for assistance in control efforts of desert locusts if we feel there is a need for it,” Majali noted.
The FAO warned in April of this year of a desert locust outbreak in northeast Africa and Saudi Arabia. The international agency said that “heavy rains and cyclones have triggered a recent surge in desert locust populations, causing an outbreak to develop in Sudan and Eritrea that is rapidly spreading along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt”.
It has called on all the affected countries to “step up vigilance and control measures to contain the destructive infestations and protect crops from the world’s most dangerous migratory pest”.
Majali said that locust swarms do not jeopardise public safety, but warned of their negative impact on the agriculture sector.
“The pest does not affect human health but it has a negative impact on crops. We urge the public to report to the ministry sightings of desert locusts and we also call on people to avoid sharing inaccurate and unverified videos and messages that can affect the country’s tourism and transpiration sectors,” Majali said.
In the meantime, the Jordan Meteorological Department (JMD) said that it has been assisting efforts to detect the movement of locust swarms by studying wind movements and providing the necessary aerial data that can help the ministry control the pest.
South-easterly winds will facilitate the movement of locust swarms from Saudi Arabia to Jordan, head of the JMD’s Weather Forecasting Department Raed Rafed Al Khattab said on Sunday.
“Sunday’s weather conditions, including the slow winds and the relatively hot temperatures, assisted the movement of swarms to Jordan. On Monday, winds originating from Saudi Arabia will be stronger, thus raising dust, and this will be in Jordan’s interest as it could limit the movement of locusts,” Khattab said.
He expected the wind direction to change as of tonight, to originate from the Mediterranean. 

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