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Iranian military may battle locust invasion

Islamic Republic of Iran Army soldiers marching in front of highest-ranking commanders of Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran during Sacred Defence Week parade. (Reza Dehshiri/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran may deploy its military to help combat a locust invasion in the south of the country as swarms of insects threaten to wreak havoc on crops and farmers’ livelihoods.

The desert locust invasion adds to problems facing Iran as it battles the coronavirus pandemic and economic turmoil following crushing U.S. sanctions.

An official of the Iranian Agriculture Ministry told the semiofficial news agency ILNA on May 15 that the military has offered to help combat the desert locusts for a second year.

“The military have promised to help fight the desert locusts, including by providing all-terrain vehicles for use in areas which are hard to access,” Mohammad Reza Mir, a spokesman for the ministry’s Plant Protection Organization. “Last year the military provided personnel and vehicles, and that was a big help.”

Locust swarms have already destroyed crops in the Horn of Africa and East Africa in recent weeks, made inroads on the Arabian Peninsula, and are threatening the Pakistan-India border, according the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

In Iran, Mir said desert locusts had attacked more than 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of orchards and farmland in seven southern provinces stretching from eastern Iran on the border with Pakistan to the southwestern border with Iraq. Up to 1 million hectares could be affected, he said.

Earlier this week, the Iranian business website the Financial Tribune quoted Mir as saying that there has so far not been any damage to orchards or farms.

Sistan-Baluchistan Province bordering Pakistan has been the worst-hit area.

Pakistan is also bracing for an impending locust attack that threatens food security and higher prices for food staples. Last year, Pakistan suffered its worst attack of locusts since 1993 when the insects invaded from Iran.

Widespread rains over the last couple of months in East Africa and Southwest Asia have provided a conducive environment for the desert locusts to breed just as farmers are managing or harvesting crops.