By Ginika Okoye
Abuja – The Federal Government says it requires N2.98 billion to curb the armyworm infestation of farmlands across the country.
Mr Mike Kanu, the Deputy Director, Horticulture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said this in Abuja at a meeting with Commissioners for Agriculture from the 36 states on Thursday.
He warned that the country might experience food shortage if the menace was not adequately managed.
He noted that the national maize output was currently 10.5 million tonnes, while the demand was 15.5 million tonnes; reflecting a national demand gap of five million tonnes.
Kanu said that the country would engage in massive importation of maize if the armyworm infestation was not curbed on time.
He suggested the use and spraying of organic and inorganic chemicals to stamp out the pest infestation.
“The major host for this caterpillar is maize but it also affects cotton, tomato, groundnut and ginger,’’ he said.
In his speech, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said that the achievement of self sufficiency in maize production would continue to be a mirage with the pest infestation.
Ogbeh said that the spread of the maize disease had negatively affected the poultry industry, which largely depended on maize for the production of feeds.
The minister said that the aim of the meeting was to brainstorm on ways of finding sustainable solutions to the armyworm infestation which had ravaged maize farms in the states.
“It is the state government that owns lands; so we need to tackle this problem to boost agricultural production,’’ he said.
Ogbeh, however, said that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had pledged to support the country in its fight against the armyworm infestation.
Some state Commissioners for Agriculture, who spoke at the event, confirmed the armyworm infestation in some farms in their states.
They underscored the need to establish chemical distribution and sale centres in different states to enable farmers to have easy access to pesticides.