- Swarms of desert have been ravaging northern Egypt for several weeks, even making a dramatic appearance in Cairo. Experts say the locusts, which came to Egypt from Libya, may soon cross the Gulf of Suez and Red Sea, from Africa into the Middle East. Other swarms may reach Sudan.
- A few locust swarms could cross Gulf of Suez and Red Sea, the UN's food and agriculture agency FAO warns today. Countries in the region should "closely monitor the situation" and undertake any necessary control measures, but there was "no reason to panic," FAO said in a statement.
FAO has already alerted the government of Israel, Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza, Saudi Arabia and Sudan of the possibility of "a few desert locust swarms arriving from northern Egypt."
- It is possible that a small number of locust swarms could arrive in these countries, said Mahmoud Solh, of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division. "Countries should not expect successive waves of swarms like in the Maghreb countries; there is definitely no reason to panic," he added.
FAO called upon countries in the Middle East region to look out for any locust swarms and undertake control operations as early as possible.
Locust swarms originally came from the Sahel summer breeding areas and moved into Libya on strong winds from the southwest. They invaded northern Egypt earlier this month and also dramatically appeared in Cairo.
Swarms have now moved further east towards Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea. Locusts have already arrived on the Mediterranean coast of northern Sinai, 100 kilometres west of Gaza (Palestine).
Although desert locust control operations are under way in Egypt, there is a risk that some of the swarms could attack crops. "But these swarms are highly mobile and crop damage is expected to be limited," Mr Solh said.
Egyptian authorities and FAO were now closely monitoring the situation to see if swarms will move south along the Red Sea to their traditional winter breeding areas along the coastal plains of southern Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
- If this occurs and if there is rainfall during the upcoming winter, desert locust numbers could soon significantly increase in these areas, FAO warns. This was however not an immediate threat.
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