No threat of desert locust invasion in Bangladesh: FAO
DHAKA, June 11, 2020 – A senior expert of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations today described the risk to Bangladesh of a large-scale invasion of desert locusts as ‘practically nil’.
“The country remained at very low risk,” FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer Keith Cressman said, while giving a presentation organised jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), a FAO press release said.
Concerns had been mounting last month that Bangladesh was in the path of the highly destructive migratory pest which is present in parts of neighbouring India. But FAO’s expert allayed these concerns, saying that Bangladesh was not at risk.
“If desert locusts were to come to Bangladesh, they would come from India. They are not going to come from anywhere else – from China or directly from Africa,” he said.
“Last month it looked scary. There were dramatic stories that were building up and a lot of rumours on social media but rest assured, your chances of receiving a large-scale desert locust swarm invasion from India is practically nil,” he added.
Cressman pointed out that a number of factors help to shield Bangladesh, including the direction of the wind, the monsoon, and India’s robust locust monitoring system.
The desert locusts in India are not in eastern states, rather in central and northern area. As the monsoon progresses, these locusts will return in a westerly direction to the desert border area with Pakistan.
“The winds are protecting Bangladesh and the locusts have retreated,” Keith Cressman added.
“The winds are from the east to the west, so it is impossible for the locusts to move against them to reach Bangladesh. So this is very good news for Bangladesh. Your risk of receiving desert locust is extremely low and as we continue throughout this month, the risk gets even lower because of the monsoon. During the monsoon, it gets very humid and they get infected by pathogens and die naturally because they are completely outside of their desert habitat – they don’t do well in that situation.”
The locust expert also highlighted the fact that India’s robust and long-established national locust programme also helped protect Bangladesh.
“India is very good at locust control,” he said, adding “They have the oldest national system in the world. So, you are protected by the winds and your neighbouring country that has an excellent locust programme.”
FAO operates a centralised Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) within the Locust Group at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy that monitors the desert locust situation throughout the world. FAO provides information on the general locust situation to the global community and gives timely warnings and forecasts to those countries in danger of invasion.
Keith Cressman told the 145 participants, including government officials and partners from international organisations, that Bangladesh was not even on FAO’s global forecast map because there was not a significant risk to the country.
Agriculture Secretary Mohammad Nasiruzzaman praised the presentation, saying that the information would help the government form policy on management and control programmes.
FAO Representative in Bangladesh, Robert D. Simpson, said: “The destructive capacity of this pest is enormous, posing a significant threat to many countries. The latest official evidence that we have seen today confirms that the threat to Bangladesh is very, very low.”
“We must of course remain vigilant. FAO’s global monitoring programme, based on data provided by countries, is one of the most important tools we have to monitor and manage the pest. We will continue to ensure that the best and most up-to-date information is available to decision makers in Bangladesh,” he added.
Both FAO and CIMMYT complemented the Ministry of Agriculture on its strong and coordinated response to Fall Armyworm, recognising that the skills developed to address emerging pests will serve as a foundation for preparedness to handle other emerging challenges.