Huge swarms of locusts are wreaking havoc on the Italian island of Sardinia, arriving a month earlier than in previous years.
The worst affected area is Nuoro province, where the winged insects have decimated crops on 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of land, following swarms in 2019 believed to be the worst in decades and new infestations in 2020 and 2021.
Leonardo Salis, president of the Nuoro unit of Coldiretti, the Italian farmers’ association, said their passage destroyed the crops of an entire field, sending months of farmers’ work and investments “up in smoke”. Locusts also ravage vegetable gardens.
Salis said that after three years of complaints and proposals to the authorities to control the insects, “we are shocked that we still find ourselves talking about the locust invasion”.
He added: “Farmers are now disillusioned and this year some changed their cultivation plan to try to limit the damage because they knew nothing would change. Among other things, they have not yet received a euro to repair the damage suffered.
Gabriella Murgia, the island’s agricultural adviser, said on Monday that an anti-locust task force was working tirelessly. “There is no time to lose,” she told local press, adding that the team, together with forestry workers, were identifying the worst-affected areas and speeding up pest control operations.
“Maximum collaboration from farmers and all other interested parties is required,” she said.
The infestation comes days after regional authorities approved €2m (£1.7m) in compensation to farmers whose crops were damaged by the insects in 2021.
Christian Solinas, Sardinia’s president, told L’Unione Sarda newspaper: “The locust invasion has devastated the Nuoro countryside, bringing several businesses to their knees. Compensation is essential to allow farmers to cope with a sharp drop in their income, guaranteeing concrete support in the face of an emergency that has added to their difficulties in recent years.