Barely months after a life-threatening drought that affected crop and animal production in the country, concerned South Africans have joined farmers to raise alarm on yet another disaster about to plague the country’s farm produce- The Armyworm.
A senior economist for Grain South Africa, Corne Louw, and South Africa’s opposition party DA, has raised alarm on the rising effect armyworm attacks would have on the sub-Saharan crops if efforts are not quickly made to avert it.
Speaking to city press on the matter, Corne Louw expressed concern over the ravaging effect the of the worm on SA crops, saying that the extent of the damage will only be known as the crop grows.
South Africa, according to the economist, is facing a possible national disaster over the fall armyworm invasion, which could see a devastating effect on crop production.
“The fact is that if you do not effectively control the fall armyworm, you might have a total crop loss on individual basis,” he said.
Fall armyworms was discovered in southern Africa for the first time as it wiped out thousands of acres of corn fields.
A farmer, Mwiya first noticed caterpillars chewing through his corn field south of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, near the end of December. Two weeks later, he’d lost half his crop to the pest as it invaded more than 10 percent of farms in the country and spread to Zimbabwe and Malawi.
As the pest brings renewed fears of food shortages and inflation, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) says the effects could be more devastating than expected if its spread isn’t controlled.
International Association for The Plan Protection Sciences issued a report in October last year, where the risks the armyworm posed to crop production in Africa is expected to be worth $400 million (about R5.2 billion) if not addressed on time
The Democratic Alliance (DA) reacted to the widespread threat posed towards South Africa’s crops by calling on Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen to declare the “invasion” of the armyworm a national disaster.
“It is vital that the government respond effectively and efficiently, and as soon as possible. The consequences of not doing so could lead to job losses which our country cannot afford, should farmers lose crops,” the DA’s Annette Steyn said.
The party also accused the department of agriculture as being “unacceptably slow to respond” to the report by the plan protection sciences association.
“In fact, they were warned four months ago, in October 2016, by the plan protection sciences association, which confirmed the outbreak of the armyworm in Nigeria and warned that it could spread rapidly,” Steyn said.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for cooperative governance and traditional affairs department, Legadima Leso, also told City Press that the issue is yet to be discussed by the state agricultural department.
“As far as I am aware, our department is not dealing with this and the relevant departments will have to look into it,” Leso said.
On the other hand, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community and the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa have kick-started a high-level emergency meeting in Harare to discuss ways to remedy the situation.