October 5, 2017 / 9:48 AM / a year ago

Zambia expects new outbreak of armyworms in 2017/2018 crop season

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia said it expects a new outbreak of armyworms in the 2017/18 crop season, after the maize-munching pests ravaged southern Africa earlier this year.

Countries with confirmed outbreaks can face import bans on agricultural products because the armyworm is classified as a quarantine pest. The pest can also cause extensive damage to crops and has a preference for maize, the regional staple.

Communications and Transport Minister Brian Mushimba, who is in charge of the department of meteorology, said in a statement about the rain forecast for the season that Zambia expected an outbreak of armyworms nationwide during the crop season that runs from October to March.

“We are working with the ministry of agriculture to ensure that the armyworms are fought,” Mushimba said.

During the 2016/2017 season, crop production was threatened by an outbreak of armyworms but Zambia still managed to reap 3.6 million tonnes of maize, up from 2.8 million the previous year, after containing the pests.

Mushimba said in the forecast that Zambia would experience normal to above normal rainfall in the 2017/2018 crop season with flash floods in some areas.

Outbreaks of the pest attack erupted in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa.

They followed a crippling El Nino-triggered drought which scorched much of the region last year, hitting crop production and leaving millions in need of food aid.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by James Macharia and Susan Fenton

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