Kenya faces huge losses from armyworm, US warns

Source(s): Nation Media Group Ltd. Nation Media Group Limited

By Kevin J. Kelley

Kenya and other major maize-producing countries in Africa could incur “staggering” food and financial losses from the invasion of a voracious pest known as the fall armyworm, a US government official warned on Tuesday.

Up to 50 per cent of an annual maize crop can be destroyed by the fall armyworm, said Regina Eddy, coordinator of a US Agency for International Development (USAid) task force focused on the threat.

The pest also attacks millet, sorghum, cotton, sugar and additional crops, Ms Eddy noted.

Here to stay

And although it only recently arrived from the Americas, the fall armyworm “will likely be in fields forever” in Africa, she added. Ms Eddy cited a Brazilian farmer's comment that “it's like a marriage without a divorce.”

Sub-Saharan climate conditions are “ideal” for the rapid spread of the fall armyworm, she pointed out. The absence of frost will enable the pest to live throughout the year, multiply quickly and damage crops over a wide area.

The anticipated ravages caused by the insect, which is actually a caterpillar and not a worm, could well worsen critical food shortages afflicting parts of Kenya and other African countries, Ms Eddy said.


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