Uganda: Govt confirms Armyworm outbreak

Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja
Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja addressing the media at Uganda Media Centre on the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm in Uganda. Courtesy Photo/Uganda Media Centre.

The Government has finally confirmed the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) several weeks after the marching worms destroy maize crop in most parts of the country.

Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja, in a statement at the Uganda the Media Centre in Kampala confirmed the outbreak.

The Minister confirms earlier fears that the Armyworm outbreak will have negative impact on the nation’s food, nutrition security and wealth creation efforts.

Sempijja says the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) is as a result of climate variability the country is experiencing.

The government finally confirmed earlier reports that the Fall Armyworm has been here since last year. He said the Ministry during the second season of 2016, received reports about severe outbreak of ‘caterpillars’ on maize plants.

Josephine Okot, the Managing Director of Victoria Seeds Limited recently complained that government had ignored warnings about a strange pest raving the maize crop last year.

She had attempted to have the Fall Armyworms picked from the fields transported to foreign laboratories for testing but she was frustrated by one of the top courier companies operating in the country.

He says symptoms of damage include leaf perforation, defoliation, perforated cobs and damaged grains.

The outbreak of the Fall Armyworm according to the Minister, may have implications for key exports and foreign exchange rate.

Meanwhile, government is advising farmers during the emergency intervention to use a combination of Lambda-cyhalothrin and Thiamethoxam pyrethroids pesticides.

The government according to Sempijja has budgeted for one billion shillings towards response to the marching worms in the districts affected.

The Fall Armyworm derives the name from its ability to eat through most of the vegetation in its way as it marches through crops. Known to originate from the Americas, the worm was identified for the first time in Africa last year. It is now a major concern in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda among other countries.