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A swarm of desert locusts in Sanaa, Yemen, in July. Photo: Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua via Getty Images

Locusts in swarms the size of Manhattan have been ravaging crops through East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and could be "a bigger threat in some of these countries than COVID-19," according to Gro Intelligence CEO Sara Menker.

What's happening: The impact of the locusts is starting to eat into the respective countries' GDP and have a devastating effect on local economies.

  • Gro Intelligence analysts tell Axios they are expecting "significant impact to agricultural production in India, along with Pakistan and East Africa."
  • India recently surpassed Brazil to become the biggest sugar producer in the world and about 40% of the planted area of sugarcane is in a main agricultural province currently under threat from locusts.
  • In June, Fitch Ratings warned that locusts could shake east Africa’s macroeconomic stability.

Yes, but: "Locust outbreaks in the significant cereal and protein exporters are rare, so significant disruptions in the international food supply chain are unlikely," Gro analysts note in an email.

  • "However, locusts may significantly impact countries which already face food insecurity, which can lead to localized supply shocks rippling through the international economy due to, for instance, currency crises or increased migration."

Why it's happening: The massive increase and spread of the locusts is linked to climate and climate patterns, Menker says.

Between the lines: Dino Martins, executive director of the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya, calls the locusts a warning from nature.

  • "As terrifying and as dramatic as they are, there is a deeper message, and the message is that we are changing the environment," he told the Harvard Gazette, noting local environmental degradation, overgrazing, deforestation and the expansion of deserts are creating ideal conditions for more locusts to breed.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Netanyahu is out as new Israeli government survives confidence vote

Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

Israel has a new prime minister for the first time since 2009 after a power-sharing government led by Naftali Bennett survived a confidence vote on Sunday. Bennett was sworn in as prime minister.

Why it matters: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister and the man around whom Israeli politics have revolved for a decade, will now become opposition leader. Bennett, a right-wing former Netanyahu protege, will lead the most ideologically diverse government in Israeli history.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Afghanistan, cyber defense on the agenda for Biden in Brussels

Joe Biden arrives at Melsbroek Military Airport in Brussels on June 13. Photo: Yves Herman/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden touched down in Brussels on Sunday evening ahead of two days of talks with NATO and European Union leaders as part of his first foreign trip as president.

Driving the news: Biden was greeted on the tarmac by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and a slate of other officials, including Douglas Jones and Mark Libby, the U.S. Permanent Representatives to NATO and the EU respectively.

Maersk CEO: Global businesses should be wary of politics

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

The CEO of the world's largest container-shipping company cautions that international firms have to be careful of taking political stances.

  • What they're saying: "We cannot run a global business if we start to have views on politics in every single country that we are in," Maersk CEO Søren Skou tells "Axios on HBO."

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