Argentina faces battle with plague of locusts

James Badcock
Locusts cover a tree stem in Gran Guardia, Argentina - Reuters

Argentina is battling a massive plague of locusts, with the insects having formed a 10-square mile cloud that has put neighbouring countries on alert. 

The swarm entered northern Argentina last month from Paraguay and is now centred on the province of Corrientes in Argentina’s northeast, near the border with Uruguay and Brazil.

The ravenous insects have already moved through the Argentinian provinces of Santa Fé and Formosa, where they caused damage to crops of sugar cane, corn and other cereals.

Footage shows locals unable to see through their car windscreens due to the density of the flying locusts, and masses of the insects up to a foot deep on tree trunks and other vegetation.

Cold weather has made the creatures lethargic in recent days as authorities in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil monitor the swarm in case it moves towards key crop-growing areas.

Low temperatures have made the creatures lethargic in recent days - Reuters

“Low temperatures will prevent them from moving and reproducing,” said Héctor Medina, a coordinator at Argentina’s SENASA agro-food safety body, adding that winds could eventually push the swarm into a neighbouring country.

Brazil has introduced a phytosanitary state of emergency in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, in case the swarm shifts eastward across the border.

“Given that this wave of locusts could arrive in Brazil in the coming days and hours, the most important act of prevention at this time is a joint plan to monitor in real time how the locusts are moving between the authorities in Argentina and Uruguay,” said Fernando Rati of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Argentina and other countries in the region are no strangers to swarms of locusts, with large swarms sighted in 2017 and 2019.

The FAO calls the desert locust “the most destructive migratory plague in the world”, and is currently monitoring other swarms, including several in Kenya and Somalia.

A cloud measuring one square kilometre is capable of consuming the same amount of food as 35,000 people, according to the FAO.