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Swarms of locusts have been stretching as far as the eye can see across Madagascar in what has been termed the worst plague in over 60 years. About 100 swarms made up of 500 billion locusts have already eaten more than half of the island’s crops at a rate of 100,000 tons of vegetation a day.
“‘It’s like you are in a movie, it’s incredible,’ said Alexandre Huynh of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, from the country’s capital of Antananarivo. ‘You don’t see anything except locusts. You turn around, there are locusts everywhere,’” CNN reported.
“The locusts wipe out any natural vegetation in their path, as well [as] rice and maize crops,” Voice of America stated. “The FAO says rice and maize losses range from 40 to 100 percent on many plots.”
The media quoted FAO Locust Control Officer Annie Monard: “The plague will of course have a big impact on the cereal production. [It] will also have an impact on pastures. So that means that—not this year, but probably next year—there will also be an impact on the cattle—on the health of the cattle.”
Madagascan authorities have tried to eliminate the insects on their own but a cyclone that hit the country in early 2013 created the perfect breeding grounds for continued infestation. Currently half of the country is pest-ridden and FAO officials estimate that by September, two-thirds of the island will be affected if no funding is available to combat the plague.
“Without concerted and effective action, experts say the crisis could very easily prove deadly in a nation such as Madagascar, where the U.N. estimates more than two-thirds of residents lived in poverty before this crisis,” CNN confirmed.
According to a statement by the UN, “The agency estimates that losses in rice production could be up to 630,000 tonnes, or about 25 per cent of total demand for rice in Madagascar. Rice is the main staple in the country, where 80 per cent of the population lives on less than a dollar per day.”
In the same press communique about the situation, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva stated: “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.”