fall army worm; pest; maize

Call for action against possible fall army worm invasion in SA

Political leaders in South Africa have called on the country’s department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to implement measures against a possible invasion of the fall army worm.

The department has been quiet on a possible action plan, since reports of the pest crossing South African borders came to light last week.

In a letter to DAFF, Democratic Alliance spokesperson on agriculture, Annette Steyn, calls for a comprehensive disaster management plan against a possible invasion and spreading of the worm.

“Of increasing concern are reports suggesting that this pest may have crossed into South African territory. This poses a significant risk to ours and the greater region’s food security.”

The American fall army worm, Spodoptera frugiperda, related to the African army worm, was spotted in western Africa last year, and started making its way to southern African countries like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It led to extensive damage to maize crops.

So far, the worms may have spread to five South African provinces – Limpopo, Gauteng, Free State, North West and as far south as the Western Cape.

Steyn says South Africa might lose its maize export status if the pest is confirmed to be fall army worm. She warns this will add even more strain on the agricultural sector’s ability to sustain jobs.

In her letter, Steyn also asks the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, Trade and Industry and Agriculture to liaise with their counterparts in affected African countries to find common solutions.

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