Weekly dose of microtrends that will shape our future

Locust swarms of “biblical” proportions threaten food and cotton crops

Miro Dimitrov

"Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again.

They covered all the ground until it was black.

They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees."

~ Exodus Chapter 10 verses 12 to 15.

The Plagues of Egypt, in the story of the book of Exodus, are ten disasters inflicted on Egypt by the God of Israel to force the Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to depart from slavery. Besides serving as the biblical bellwether of the end of the world, locusts have appeared and vanished in irregular boom and bust cycles, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Locusts are ravenous eaters, consuming their full body weight daily – consuming as much food as would be eaten by 35,000 people (or 6 elephants) in a single day. Once airborne, the locusts will be harder to contain, flying up to 124 miles (200 kilometers) a day.

Back in January this year, NWO.AI's platform alerted us of locust swarms eating its way through East Africa. The signal for "locusts" reached an inflection point on Jan 12. The star symbol represents points at which our system generated an early warning - indicating that the signal concerning the locusts outbreak may turn exponential.


A couple of weeks later, images such as the one below began surfacing on the internet, signaling that the situation wasn't meant to be taken lightly. What began then was a mission undertaken by our data science team to track the effects of the devastation across 2 continents and multiple supply chains, over a period of 6 months.

What happens in Yemen doesn't stay in Yemen: NWO.AI's contextual AI, which analyzes context words that are associated with the narrative related to locusts, began surfacing information regarding the spread of the locust swarms in various regions. It was surreal to witness a double-domino-effect, sweeping across two continents – starting with Yemen in late December 2019 and traveling through Somalia and east through Pakistan and India, as shown in the figure below:

Locust swarm movements across Africa and South Asia, captured by NWO.AI signals

Approximately two weeks after our locust signal related to India was flagged by the system in mid May, volume of cotton futures suddenly spiked from ~50,000-100,000 contracts per day to 18+ million contracts, and values rallied by more than 10% after having fallen by 20% this year. This was largely driven by the fact that cotton crops are a food source for locusts, and India, which is the world’s largest supplier of cotton, plants most of its crops in June. Aside from traders making a bet on prices, manufacturers in clothing or other sectors may have also been using the futures market as “insurance” against the the cost of cotton spiraling out of control.

Why is this happening now? It is hard for data science to find causal relationships between any two occurrences. However, with NWO.AI's contextual AI, clients can uncover underlying meanings behind the narratives concerning various topics. One of the key context words associated with locusts that started trending in early February is "cyclones" as shown below:


Connecting the dots: During the greater part of their existence, locusts are pretty harmless, existing in their anti-social "grasshopper phase". But when environmental conditions are right, the creatures undergo a remarkable transformation – climate change which triggers warming oceans, in turn, feed cyclones generated the "perfect storm" for locust breeding.  They grow in their size and appetite and instead of repelling each other, they start operating as massive swarms sweeping across landscapes, completely stripping the foliage and stems of crops.

Source: http://www.fao.org/ag/locusts/common/ecg/2094/en/201810_201909.002.jpg

What's next? With reports of fresh precipitation in the recent months in the Arabian sea, it is hard to not think of another wave of locust destruction already in motion. After the signals for the previous wave flatlined, NWO.AI generated a predictive alert 2 weeks ago, specifically pertaining to Yemen, to indicate that this particular signal is about to hit the exponential stage once again. The early warning generated on  NWO.AI was followed a week later by an urgent appeal for funds by the World Food Programme (WFP).


Farmers in Yemen are complaining that locusts have wiped out entire seasonal crops that are grown after rains. FAO says desert locusts can pose a threat to the livelihoods of 10% of the world's population.

Our prediction: With fresh inflection points detected by NWO.AI in its Yemen based signals, our hunch is that the swarm migration from the Horn of Africa will eventually cross over once again to Indo-Pakistan. It’s hard not to get pessimistic and assume that the world will fail to stop this problem. Technically, the 2020 locust population is still considered an “upsurge” and not yet a “plague.” If an upsurge is not controlled and ecological conditions remain favorable for breeding, then a plague can develop. Regardless, the implications to the global grain supply are going to be tremendous.

As always, thanks for reading. Please invite your friends to sign up here.

Share twitter/ facebook/ copy link
Your link has expired
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.