Africa loses over $13bn to fall armyworm

Africa loses over $13bn to fall armyworm

By Tunde Osho  (with agency reports)

Fall armyworm has caused Africa over $13 billion as experts warn the pest has come to stay on the continent.

According to agric experts from the USAID Bureau for food security, the continuous existence of the pest poses a huge threat to food security, incomes of farmers as well as agricultural trade across the continent.

Speaking to members of the media in a telephonic press conference at the US Embassy, policy engagement coordinator, fall armyworm task force, USAID Bureau for Food Security, Regina Eddy said “it will impact income and trade. This means that if farmers were earning more incomes, this disappears and also trade in general diminishes.”

She said the issue is a very serious one hence the need to tackle it as soon as possible.

The Fall Armyworm is an invasive crop pest, native to the America’s that has spread across more than 30 African countries.

In its larval stage, the crop has been compared to the locust for its devastating impact on crops. It breeds rapidly and its difficult to control.

The Fall Armyworm can feed and damage over 80 different crops including maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane hence the potential to cause losses running into billions of dollars.

In Ghana,the Fall armyworm was first reported in the Yilo Krobo district of the eastern region in 2016.

From an initial figure of 1,400 hectares of affected farmlands as at May last year, more than 112,000 hectares of farm fields were invaded by the Fall Armyworm pests.

However, the government through the Ministry of Food Agriculture has responded with a budget of GHS16 million to fight the plague

But with the new crop season starting, the pest has resurfaced.

According to the coordinator, the fall armyworm task force, USAID Bureau for food security, the pest is here to stay in Africa.

Its endemic and it will be in the fields likely forever and farmers will have to learn to manage and deal with it. But in Africa, the challenge has been with lack of knowledge in identifying the pest and inability to disseminate information and transfer technologies.

However, through the USAID feed the future programme, collaboration is going on with various governments and communities to tackle the pest attack.

USAID, through the feed the future initiative is leading the US government’s efforts to combat the Fall armyworm with a broad coalition of partners including the private sector, universities, donors, research institutions and country governments.