Bolivia begins fumigation against locust plague

Media captionBolivia fights back as crops hit by plague of locusts

Bolivia has started chemical spraying in its eastern grain region to fight a plague of locusts which is endangering thousands of hectares of crops.

The locusts were first reported in January and have already taken over 1,000 hectares in the province of Santa Cruz.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said it was the first time his country had seen locusts.

Neighbouring Argentina has suffered with them since the 1920s.

The government has set up a new unit to deal with the challenge and has asked the Argentine government to provide expertise and advice.

The government and local farmers in Santa Cruz say they plan to fumigate up to 17,000 hectares to prevent the locusts from spreading and endangering the food supply.

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The government said it would help farmers started distributing fumigation equipment

Local producers said they were desperately trying to identify where the eggs and locust nymphs were so that the could control the initial stages of the plague more effectively.

Bolivia is normally self-sufficient in grain production, and for the moment the area affected by locusts represents only a small fraction of the 100,000 hectares planted with grains in Santa Cruz.

The locusts follows a severe drought in Bolivia which led to water rationing and conflicts over water use.

Producers in Santa Cruz, one of Bolivia’s wealthiest areas, have for years lobbied the government to allow the use of genetically-modified seeds which they say will help produce crops that are resistant to plagues and adverse climate conditions.