Locust plague threatens to trigger severe food crisis in MadagascarListen /
Madagascar is in the grips of a largely uncontrolled locust plague and risks a serious food crisis, according to the UN Food and agriculture Organization (FAO).
FAO estimates that by September this year, up to a third of the country will be infested by locusts, putting at risk the lives of 13 million people or nearly 60 per cent of the island's total population.
Efforts by the organization to raise up to $ 22 million to undertake an emergency locust control campaign have not received sufficient backing and the appeal remains severely underfunded.
FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva says if the infestation is not brought under control now, it could last years, and controlling it will be lengthier and more expensive.
A recent assessment by FAO indicates that some parts of Madagascar have already lost between 40 and 70 per cent of their rice and maize crop.
The organization estimates there could be losses in rice production of up to 630,000 tonnes, or about 25 percent of total demand for rice in Madagascar, which would severely affect food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of the most vulnerable.
Rice is the main staple in the country, where 80 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar per day.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.