BEIJING, Jun 18, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) China is suffering its worst locust plague in years with nearly eight million hectares (19.7 million acres) of land attacked by the crop-eating pests, the official China Daily said Monday.

So far, the insects have infested more than 7.7 million hectares in 10 provinces, the paper said, quoting the ministry of agriculture.

The worst-hit regions are along the Yellow River and Bohai Sea, parts of south China's Hainan province and the northwestern province of Xinjiang, where the density has hit 3,000 to 10,000 insects per square meter, the paper said.

Part of the reason for the problem in Xinjiang is that Asian migratory locusts from Kazakhstan have invaded the region, the report said.

The pests have appeared in large numbers even in some regions where locusts seldom appear, such as in northeastern Liaoning province.

Plague control teams have sprayed insecticide over about 250,000 hectares of wasteland, where the insects breed, and will spray another 600,000 hectares within the coming month.

The plague is mainly caused by the chronic dry spell, the report said.

A drought has dried up more than 20 provinces and municipalities over the past three months and has provided a good environment for the breeding of migratory locusts.

The government and agricultural authorities are taking the threat seriously and will try to kill the locusts before they grow wings, the report said.

The government has set aside 27 million yuan (3.26 million dollars) for the battle against the locusts and another 40 million yuan (4.8 million dollars) will be allocated soon, the report said. ((c) 2001 Agence France Presse)