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Russia: Locusts From Kazakhstan Threaten Agriculture

United Nations, 30 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says a swarm of locusts originating in Kazakhstan is threatening agricultural disaster in parts of Russia.

The UN agency said yesterday that the locusts developed in the Almaty area, in eastern Kazakhstan, and in the Pavlodar oblast, in the north. It says the locust swarms have also moved into the neighboring states of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The FAO says the situation is serious as both farmers and the government in all the affected countries lack adequate resources and technology to deal effectively with the problem.

The UN agency says locust infestations occur annually in Kazakhstan, but their scale and intensity have increased over the past few years. In Russia this year locusts are being reported in farm areas that have not been seen there since the 1920s.

The UN agency says that in addition to causing severe localized damage to crops in Kazakhstan and Russia, the locusts have laid eggs over millions of hectares. It says these eggs, unless destroyed, will hatch in the spring of 2000 posing a greater threat to next year's crops.

The FAO says the cause is a reduction of investment and changes in the agriculture sector of these countries that has led to marginal lands being taken out of production. The sharp increase in the amount of fallow land, particularly in Kazakhstan, which is left virtually untested, has provided ideal breeding grounds for locusts and other pests, it said.

Locusts are now covering more than 1 million hectares in Kazakhstan, twice as much as had been expected.

So far damage to crops has been limited. The FAO says the Kazakh government has spent $4.8 million this year to buy pesticides, but it says this is inadequate. Only 2 million hectares have been treated, it says.