A leaf of a sorghum plant is seen after it was eaten by a crop-eating armyworm at a farm in Settlers, northern province of Limpopo

Malawi maize output down 28 pct after drought, armyworm outbreak

BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Malawi's maize output declined by 28 percent in the 2017/18 farming year due to damage caused by drought and crop-eating armyworms, a government report showed on Tuesday.

The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC), comprised of government and aid agencies, said in the report that maize production fell to 2.698 million tonnes from 3.464 million tonnes in the 2016/17 farming season.

The committee blamed drought in most parts of the southern African country, and an outbreak of crop-eating armyworms for the drop in the harvest of the staple grain.

"Dry spells mostly in the southern part of Malawi and some districts in the central region affected most key crops, including rice production," said Ethel Mwalughali, a government representative on MVAC.

MVAC said the drop in maize production had led to food insecurity for 3.3 million people, who would require 138,488 tonnes of food aid.

Armyworms are a pest from Latin America that first threatened African crops in late 2016, while drought is a perennial threat to impoverished Malawi.

The country declared armyworms a national disaster in December after discovering the pests had spread to 22 of Malawi's 28 districts.

Malawi relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture, and most of its maize is grown on small plots by subsistence farmers.

(Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Dale Hudson)

2018-08-28 15:35:49

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