Government has come under fire for apparently denying the fight against fall armyworms enough funds in the 2017 /18 national budget.
The fall armyworms that were officially reported in the country on December 16 ravaged close to 140, 000 hectares of maize during the 2016 /17 farming season out of 1.7 million hectares that were put under cultivation.
In the 2017/18 financial plan that is under deliberation in the National Assembly, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has been allocated K192 billion but efforts to deal with the worms that have affected southern Africa has been incooperated in the budget for the procurement of general chemicals for grain protection with an allocated expenditure of K135 million.
The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has since described the development as lack of seriousness on the part of government considering that fall worms have the potential to greatly reduce maize yield to unimaginable levels.
The committee’s Vice Chairperson, James Munthali, said the location smacks of government’s lack of seriousness to deal with the worms.
“The ministry has not made any particular commitment towards the fight against the worms. All that is there is an allocation towards the procurement of chemicals for grain protection amounting to around K 135 million.
“To us, as a committee, this is an emergency and the ministry needed to make a commitment of a specific figure towards the fight because all the indications are there that, in the next growing season, the fall armyworms will get serious. The ministry needs to take a serious approach,” Munthali said on Sunday.
Fall armyworms are originally from north and south America and, according to the Agriculture Ministry, have been spreading at a fast rate and that during the last growing season, the ministry used close to 3,000 litres of chemicals in the fight against the worms.
In addition, the ministry was also supported with over 22,500 litres of chemicals from the donor community.
At a sensitisation meeting in Mzuzu on Saturday, Controller of Agriculture Extension and Technical Services in the ministry, Albert Changaya, said the country has to carry out extensive research on the worms.
Asked how the country is fairing on the worms fight, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Aggrey Masi, said the country is on the right track considering the engagements the ministry has had with stakeholders.
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