Federal government raises concerns over army worms

Ene Okwanihe, Abuja

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has raised an alarm over the re-emergence of the army worms which have been ravaging maize farms across the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh raised the alarm while hosting the Commissioners of Agriculture from the 36 states including FCT in Abuja Nigeria’s Capital

He said the purpose of calling the meeting is to discuss how the situation can be controlled to avoid possible maize shortage in the country.

The Minister said the Army worm is destroying maize production in the country and it poses serious threat to not only maize production but to other important crops.

Mr Ogbeh also said that the pests currently attacking farms also posed a threat to the poultry industry, which if not controlled will result in skyrocketing the prices of poultry products as maize is one of the major crops used for the production of poultry feeds in the country.

“If we don’t deal with it, maize production may become almost impossible here, the impact of shortage of maize have become severe on poultry, and for a country facing food shortage, especially in the North-East, we will not allow it to continue,” he said.

The Minister further decried the lack of enthusiasm of some state governors towards agriculture, urging them to take the agricultural sector more seriously even at the state level.

He also said that the funds to combat the outbreak is not yet available due to the budget which has not been signed.

Mr. Ogbeh however added that the government is enlisting the service of an agro chemical company to provide pesticide that can be used to combat the army worm.

The enlisted company will also carry out sensitization campaigns across the states and local government to make sure farmers are well enlightened on how to use the pesticides to prevent and control Army Worm.

Steps taken

Meanwhile, the Deputy Director of Horticulture at the Ministry, Dr Mike Kanu in his presentation titled ‘the African Army Worm infestation and proposed control strategies in Nigeria’ said that a total of N2.98 billion will be needed to contain the pest for about 700,000 hectares of land across the country.

“Implementation of the proposed intervention across the 36 states and FCT on 700,000 hectares for over 700,000 maize farmers is projected at N2.98 billion,” he stated.

Dr. Kanu said Nigeria is at a critical stage right now where an organic pesticide has to be used to bring the situation under control.

He however emphasized the need to use organic pesticides that will not leave residues as the usage of any harmful pesticide has a damaging effect on the human health.

The Army Worm is believed to have migrated to Nigeria from Benin Republic through Oyo state; aside maize, it attacks other crops including grasses, sorghum, barley, millet, wheat and rice.

Other crops that harbor the pest include cotton, tomato, groundnut ginger, and they are found in high density areas.

The pest if not controlled has the capacity to cause 90-95 per cent damage on maize farms within 48 hours.

Currently, the pest has spread to South East, South West, South-South, North East and North West.