From: Reuters
Published December 7, 2007 03:28 AM

Kenya issues alert over desert locust invasion

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Desert locusts have invaded Kenya's arid northeastern region, threatening maize and wheat crops, but the Agriculture Ministry said on Friday it was well prepared to fight the pests.

The desert locust's destructive power stems from its gregarious nature that allows it to move in swarms, eating whatever vegetation it finds in its path.

A ministry statement published in local newspapers said the locusts were not aggressively feeding yet, but were in their last stage of development and laying eggs in the moist sandy soil of the hot region.

"In view of the above and understanding the ecology of the pest, it is important to note that hoppers which are the most destructive stage are expected to appear from around December 10," the statement quoted Romano Kiome, the ministry's permanent secretary, as saying.

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"This stage is the focus of control."

He said the government was prepared with pesticides and spraying equipment and that the attack was the first since 1962.

The locust swarms originated in Yemen, flew into Ethiopia's Ogaden region where they laid eggs in October and a few swarms continued south towards Somalia and northeastern Kenya, the statement said.

"A large and dense desert locust swarm first flew over Mandera (bordering Ethiopia and Somalia) on November 18," the statement added.

(Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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