Locust outbreak in Afghanistan threatens Wheat crops: FAO.

ISLAMABAD -- A large-scale locusts outbreak across eight provinces in North and Northeast Afghanistan poses enormous threat to the country's food security, warns the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

According to a report, published earlier this ongoing month, the sightings of locust have been made in Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz, Samangan, Sar-e-Pul and Takhar, with fresh reports coming in from Herat and Ghor provinces.

The Moroccan Locust is ranked among the most economically damaging plant pests anywhere in the world. A full outbreak this year could result in crop losses ranging from 700 000 to 1.2 million metric tonnes of wheat, up to a quarter of the total annual harvest, according to FAO.

This equivalent to between USD 280 million and USD 480 million in economic loss, as of today's prices in the country.

In the Baghlan province farmers like Najibullah have seen their crops ravaged by locusts.

Najibullah, farmer affected by locust outbreak told FAO "The Moroccan locust has destroyed 300 jeribs (60 hectares) of my wheat field and 31 000 jeribs (6 200 hectares) of pastureland in this area, where ten villages are located."

Afghanistan's North and Northeast regions are prone to Moroccan Locust outbreaks. Drought, over-grazing, very limited locust control and the right amount of rainfall in March and April (approximately 100 mm) created this year the ideal environment for locusts to hatch and swarm.

In these parts of Afghanistan, Moroccan Locust lay eggs between May and June, depending on environmental conditions, in hilly and rangeland areas.

The young locusts hatch from the egg-pods the following year in late March and start feeding on surrounding grasses. This year the hatching started earlier than usual.

If the Moroccan locust population is left untreated, it could increase its number by 100-fold in the next year, creating even bigger problems for...

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