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updated: 2/18/2013 9:10 AM

Locust swarms invade northern sudan growing areas in crop threat

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Bloomberg News

Locust swarms invaded crop-growing areas in northern Sudan in the last few days and more groups of the pest insects are likely to form, the United Nations said.

At least six swarms were present on Sudan's Red Sea coastal plains, the UN's Rome-based Food & Agriculture Organization wrote yesterday in a report on its Locust Watch website. Several swarms moved west into northern Sudan's interior, attacking winter crops and fruit orchards, the report showed.

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"The situation is potentially dangerous as more swarms are expected to form in the coming weeks that could move into parts of northern Sudan and southern Egypt," the FAO wrote. "All efforts are required to control the infestations and protect winter crops."

Adult desert locusts can eat their own weight in food daily, according to the FAO. Egypt is Africa's biggest wheat grower, with expected output of 8.5 million metric tons in the 2012-13 season, according to the International Grains Council.

The swarms originated from winter-breeding areas on the Red Sea coast in northeast Sudan and southeast Egypt, where more are expected to form in coming weeks, according to the report. Four swarms were reported in southern Sudan near the border with Eritrea, the FAO wrote.

Some swarms may move inland in Sudan and Egypt as well as across the Red Sea to the coast of Saudi Arabia if no further rains fall and vegetation dries out, according to the report.

Swarms containing tens of millions of the insects can fly as much as 150 kilometers (93 miles) a day, and a female locust can lay 300 eggs in her lifetime, according to the UN agency.

Desert-locust distribution can extend over 60 countries during plague years, covering about 29 million square kilometers, or about a fifth of the world's land, according to the FAO.

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