June 29, 2013 (TSR) – In Madagascar, “a largely uncontrolled locust plague” is in development, which by September is expected to infest two-thirds of the large island. If not checked, the locusts will finish off the entire crops of more than half of the population.
The UN’s food agency FAO on Monday issued a warning about the development of an uncontrolled locust plague being in development in Madagascar. The agency warns that emergency action must be taken to avoid a large-scale food crisis on the island.
“Some 13 million people’s food security and livelihoods are at stake, or nearly 60 percent of the island’s total population. Nine million of those people are directly dependent on agriculture for food and income,” according to FAO. The UN agency says it urgently needs funding to start emergency operations on Madagascar to prevent “a serious food crisis.”
FAO has issued various warnings since August 2012 calling for financial support. FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva emphasised that prevention and early action are key to meet locust plagues. “If we don’t act now, the plague could last years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This could very well be a last window of opportunity to avert an extended crisis,” he said.
Due to lack of efficient locust control programmes so far, the pest has already infected parts of the island. According to FAO, in parts of the country rice and maize losses due to the locusts vary from 40 to 70 percent of the crop, with 100 percent losses on certain plots.
The main food crop in Madagascar is rice, which is also on the menu of the swarming locusts. According to FAO estimates, there could be losses in rice production of up to 630,000 tonnes, or about 25 percent of total annual demands for rice in Madagascar.
The typical treatment of a locust plague is the large-scale spraying of insecticides. Swarming locusts occur periodically in most parts of semi-arid Africa, but can be controlled with preventive use of insecticides. When they first start swarming, the mighty plague is almost impossible to get under control.