China could face locust plague, Taiwan unlikely to fall victim

Island too humid for desert insects: BAPHIQ

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Desert locusts in Kenya in early February. 

Desert locusts in Kenya in early February.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As China deals with the expanding Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a locust plague which has decimated agriculture in East Africa could make its way toward the East Asian country, but Taiwanese experts say the insects are unlikely to invade the humid island.

The locusts are used to living in deserts and relatively dry areas with less than 200 milliliters of annual precipitation, the Council of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) said Tuesday (Feb. 18).

The desert locusts currently plaguing areas from Kenya and Ethiopia to Pakistan are different from another type which turn up in Penghu County in the Taiwan Strait at 15- to 18-year intervals, CNA reported.

The BAPHIQ said it would maintain intensive checks on imported plants and other agricultural products to intercept any desert locusts, though it described the likelihood of the insects infiltrating Taiwan as low.

Billions of the locusts destroyed crops in Kenya before moving into neighboring countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia earlier this month. The insects can fly at a speed of up to 19 kilometers per hour.