EDITORIAL COMMENT: Equip Agritex officers to deal with armyworm outbreak decisively

armyworm

A lot of ground has been covered towards meeting Government’s target of producing two million tonnes of maize this summer cropping season despite a few challenges such as shortage of fertiliser.

According to fertiliser producing companies, Government was not allocating them adequate foreign currency to import the required raw materials.

Government has since  made a commitment to ensure adequate foreign currency is availed to fertiliser companies to enable them to produce enough fertiliser to meet demand.

Seed companies have been able to meet the demand for seed and most farmers under Command Agriculture have confirmed receiving enough seed for planting. Government under Command Agriculture has set itself a target to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares. The farmers under the scheme are not just being given inputs such as seed and fertiliser but are also supplied with fuel for tillage.

Government needed $515 million to enable farmers to put 400 000 hectares under maize but according to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is overseeing the scheme, Government got offers of nearly $1 billion. He said the response from locals was overwhelming and it gave Government room to select funders whose interest rates were low and viable for the agricultural sector.

Most farmers have since planted and crops in most areas are reported to be doing well given the good rains received so far. Most farmers under the scheme have expressed confidence that they will surpass the target of five tonnes per hectare set by Government. The promising bumper harvest is, however, under threat following an outbreak of the fall armyworm. The outbreak has so far been reported in the six districts of Matabeleland North province.

According to agricultural experts, the effects of the fall armyworm are very devastating hence the need for farmers to detect the worm early.

Matabeleland North provincial agritex officer Mr Dumisani Nyoni said in some of the affected areas, as much as 80 percent of the crops have been destroyed. He said the fall armyworm was more dangerous than the armyworm. Mr Nyoni said the fall armyworm was also difficult and expensive to contain so it is important for farmers to be on the lookout for the worms so that they are destroyed before they multiply.

The outbreak of the fall armyworm has been reported in Hwange, Lupane, Umguza, Binga, Bubi and Tsholotho districts. Farmers in these districts should therefore continuously inspect their crops so that the worms can be detected early. What is worrying is that among the farmers affected, are those under Command Agriculture.

We want at this juncture to implore Government to put in place mechanisms to enable agritex officers to swiftly respond to reports of outbreak of this devastating worm so that crops can be saved. We cannot allow the millions of dollars invested in the soil this farming season to go to waste as a result of the outbreak of this fall armyworm.

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