Around N3b needed to control army worms; Food crises may worsen – Ogbe

by - Kehinde Folarin

Another major food crisis may hit the country if urgent steps are not taken at curbing the recent outbreak of army worm, a pest that mainly attacks and destroys maize.  But according to government, the pest has extended its devastation to other crops like cocoa, sorghum, tomato, ginger, cotton and rice, among others.other legumes in large numbers on farmlands especially in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has noted that the invasion of army worm and its resultant destruction of crops in farmlands across the country is a major national catastrophe and has thus braced to face the menace.

Speaking at a meeting with Commissioners of Agriculture from the 36 States of the Federation in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said it was important to respond swiftly in managing the fast expanding reach of the pest in order to avoid a major food crisis.

“State Governors must respond urgently by purchasing recommended pesticides for local farmers, adding that about N2.98bn would be needed to effectively tackle the menace”

Ogbeh said, “If farmers lose their farms and they refuse to farm, this country will be in trouble. We will write to your governors and make them understand why they should do this, while we see how we look for funds.

“As you have heard, about N2.98b is needed to fight this army worm in at least 700,000 hectares of land across board, especially in those areas where the case is more pronounced. We also have huge amount of money to pay poultry farmers as compensation. Now, we have no money, with the budget not signed into law.”

Ogbeh told the commissioners that it might be difficult to get the fund as the 2017 budget is yet to be assented by the President, adding that he might have to persuade Budget Office of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance to help provide the needed funds.

A Director in the Ministry’s Department of Pest Control, Dr. Kalu Mike, said about 700,000 hectares of maize farms in five geo-political zones of the country had already been invaded by the pest.

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