Treasury gives Sh325m in war on armyworms

Maize destroyed by armyworms in Namanjalala, Trans nzoia County. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA
Maize destroyed by armyworms in Namanjalala, Trans nzoia County. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA 

The Treasury has released Sh325 million through the supplementary budget to fight fall armyworms which are ravaging maize fields, further threatening food security.

The Agriculture ministry Tuesday said the cash is against a request for Sh360 million emergency funding to tackle the worm following reports that it had invaded farms in more than 15 counties.

“We have received the money requested through the supplementary budget,’’ said Dr Johnson Irungu Waithaka, the Director of Agriculture, Crop Management.

“We are meeting tomorrow and Friday with the counties to assess and develop a plan against the armyworms. But they have subsided with the ongoing rains.’’

Maize production will drop by 4.3 million bags this year on delayed rains and army-worm attack, setting the stage for expensive maize flour next year.

The Agriculture ministry projects harvests of 32.8 million bags, down from 37.1 million bags last year—representing a 11.5 per cent drop.

The funds will help smallholder farmers access pesticides amid concern over lack of money or expertise to use insecticides effectively. The worms were first reported in Kenya in mid-January.

Among counties that have been invaded are Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Nakuru, Busia and Bungoma, with the pests mainly attacking maize.

These are agricultural rich counties and a widespread attack could aggravate the ongoing food crisis that has seen prices skyrocket.

Kenya is suffering from a drought that has left about 2.7 million people in need of food aid and driven up inflation to a near-five year high.
The country is offering Sh6 billion as subsidy to maize importers to help lower the cost of flour.

It plans to import 2.9 million bags in June and subsidise up to about five million bags until harvest time.

The subsidy has lowered the price of a 90 kilo bag of maize to Sh2,300 from about Sh4,500, cutting the cost of the two kilo packet to Sh90 from a high of Sh153.

Experts warn that unless the spread of the fall armyworm is contained, the attack is likely to result in a humanitarian crisis.

Some countries with confirmed outbreaks have faced bans on exports of their agricultural products.