Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government thursday painted a negative outlook in the form of armyworm scourge ravaging many states in the country and likely to reduce maize production outputs.
The red flag was raised at a meeting between the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, and the 36 states commissioners and FCT on issues of mutual concern.
The armyworm is projected to affect 700,000 farmers planting on 700,000 hectares of land.
The projected maize crops loss to the country is estimated at N2.8billion.
The armyworm infestation, which usually breaks out during the rainy season, is spread in other African countries of Zimbabwe, Senegal, Benin Republic, Mozambique, Namibia and Ethiopia.
Deputy Director, Horticulture, Mike Kanu, said the present outbreak in Nigeria came through next-door Benin Republic in 2016, from where it ravaged farmlands in Oyo State. Kanu said the pest which has spread to other parts of the country, massively destroying farms, could affect 90-95 per cent of maize output this year.
â€œThe pupa is in the soil and it has a rapid development cycle of 25 days. It lays eggs in batches. One female adult can lay over 1,000 eggs. They move in mass within an hour and can travel as far as 100 kms per hour. If we donâ€™t deal with it, maize production across the nation could be in jeopardy, â€œKanu warned.
He said already there was a national gap of five million metric as the current national output is 10.5m MT, while the national demand is 15.5m MT.
Kanu said the country would recourse to massive importation of maize grains if the current gap attained 50-75 per cent.
The infection can be controlled through the application of inorganic pesticides such as Laraforce Gold, Ematex, Zetacypermethrin, Deltametrin.and Magicforce.
Akin Olotu, the Senior Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor, lamented that all farmers in the state were affected, while the Abia State Commissioner for Agriculture, Uzo Azubuike, admonished that if care was not taken and pesticides were not provided, the state would not harvest maize this year.
Ogbeh said a joint committee would be set up among the commissioners to monitor the situation and prepare contingency plans, adding that the Food and Agricultural Organisation ((FAO) had offered to assist Nigeria in tackling the scourge.
He also revealed that the avian bird flu has affected 26 states including FCT and 123 local government areas.
The total number of birds culled is 3,736,824, while the number of farms affected is 800.
The worse hit states are Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Plateau and FCT.
Government said compensation would only be given to farmers with 3,000 birds and below.