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September 07, 2008

Nigeria to spray against quela birds, locusts

Nigeria will spend 251 million naira ($213,339) to spray farmlands in its arid northern region that are being ravaged by thousands of tiny grain-eating quela birds and locusts, the agriculture minister said on September 7.

Massive swarms of the black, red-beaked migratory birds and desert locusts have destroyed swathes of millet, maize, sorghum and rice farms in about a dozen arid states just before harvest.

"To ensure food security ... the federal government has approved a total of 220 flight hours and over 60,000 litres of pesticides to be utilised immediately to control the quela birds and grasshoppers in the affected frontline states," Minister of State for Agriculture Ademola Seriki told a news conference.

Aerial spraying of farms will start on Wednesday, while the affected states will also be provided with ground spraying equipment like manual and motorised sprayers, Seriki said.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and top crude oil producer, loses about 40 percent of its annual crop output to pests, according to experts.

Seriki said Nigeria, the world's eighth biggest oil exporter, was examining more cost-effective and sustainable strategies, such as a public-private partnership to check the menace of agricultural pests in the future. Quela birds and locusts, which move in large numbers and can devour a field of crops overnight, traditionally scourge the Sahara and the Sahel every year, moving eastwards towards Arabia, but rarely enter Nigeria in serious numbers.

Last year, swarms of locusts hit Nigeria after causing havoc in Mauritania, Mali and Niger, then headed towards Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region.


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