Fall Armyworm threatens Uganda’s exports to Europe

Fall armyworm
Fall armyworm wreaks havoc in Uganda

The confirmation of the Fall Armyworm in Uganda could affect Uganda’s export to the European Union. While there are efforts to curb the marching worms from destroying maize and other crops, the outbreak could have a bigger impact on Uganda’s earning from flowers and other agricultural produce to the European Union.

Agriculture Minister, Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja while announcing the outbreak on Friday alluded to the fact that the outbreak would have an impact on the country’s economy and foreign exchange earnings.

Sources at National Crop Resources Institute have indicated to this publication that Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija and his Trade counterpart, Amelia Kyambadde have been seeking information on how to control the pests.

The Fall Armyworm is technically classified as quarantined pest under the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), an international agreement that aims to protect cultivated and wild plants by preventing the introduction and spread of pests.

Quarantine pests and diseases are harmful organisms, defined under legislation and difficult to control. They cause considerable damage to production in agriculture, forestry and gardening.

Under the convention, countries are granted right to impose phytosanitary measures to stop imports of products in which outbreak of quarantined pests have been confirmed.

The European Union (EU), one of importers of Ugandan flowers has strict phytosanitary requirements which may require consignments to enter through specified points of entry if the imports need to be inspected, treated or accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate.

Apart from the International Plant Convention, European Union runs its own European and Mediterranean Plan Protection Organization (EPPO).

One of the aims of EPPO is to help its member countries to prevent entry or spread of dangerous pests.  The Organization lists Fall Armyworm as one of the dangerous quarantined pests that need to be subjected to the phytosanitary measures.

The confirmation of Fall Armyworm in Uganda comes at the time when the government through Ministry of Trade and Industry had instituted a self-imposed ban on exports to European Union over phytosanitary.

The self-imposed ban followed an alert by European Union asking for tightened boarder control on Uganda’s sesame and eggplant exports. The alert said traces of pesticide residues had been found in eggplants from Uganda.

The Commission President, Jean-Claude Junker then directed that consignments of sesame seeds and aubergines from Uganda would pose risks requiring the introduction of an increased level of official controls.

Trade and Industry Minister, Amelia Kyambadde in a bid to save the over $800 million earnings from flowers and agricultural products announced a ban and later formed a technical committee to sensitize farmers about safety requirements.

The outbreak of Fall Armyworm said to have begun in the second season last year could complicate matters. Farmers in effort to save the crops resorted to massive application of pesticides.

The infestation of Fall Armyworms is an invasive Central American species that is harder to detect and eradicate than the Armyworms that have previously existed here.

The Fall Armyworms outbreak was first reported in Nigeria, they marched to Southern African countries, DRC and now confirmed in Uganda.

The government suspects they could have reached here through trade in agricultural products of some of the effects of climate change.

The Fall Armyworms lay eggs at night on the leaves of the host, stuck to the lower surface of the lower part of the lower leaves, in tight clusters of 100-300.

Farmers are asked to spray their crops late in the evenings at the time when the moths are laying eggs. Ministry of Agriculture is advising farmers to use a combination of Lambda-cyhalothrin and Thiamethoxam pyrethroids pesticides.

The sprays should be directed under the leaves and at the tip of the plant.

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