By Jutah Gupah
The Country Representative of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of UN, Suffyan Koroma has said that army-worms have caused $268 million (N76.48 billion) economic damages in 2016 to the agricultural sector. Suffyan disclosed this on Wednesday in an FAO Situation Report of November, 2018, released in Maiduguri. “Since first observed in 2016, the pest has caused major economic damages to Nigeria’s agriculture sector, with the strongest impact being on a million producer households,” said the report. It explained that the Fall Army-worm (FAW) is negatively affecting the food production and incomes of more than a million producer households across Nigeria. According to the report, the affected states include Abia, Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo states. Koroma said that the army-worm has destroyed more than $268 million worth of losses in earnings in Abia, Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo states, as of November 2017. On destroyed farmlands, the report said: “7.8 million hectares of crop estimated to be damaged the four affected states. 1.5 million Households estimated to be affected by the worms. He said to overcome the destruction of crops across the country, $3 million (N1.1 billion) is required by UN food agency. The report warned that FAO’s funding for FAW activities has been depleted. “In July 2018, FAO mapped the impact of the FAW on livelihoods in six states in southern Nigeria, with the mapping of an additional six states in the northern region ongoing,” said Koroma, noting that significant questions about impact of FAW in the other 24 unmapped states still remain. According to report; FAO faces significant financial constraints to carry out monitoring, prevention and response activities on army-worm. On nature of army-worm, the report said: “It is a significant insect pest native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas. “And highly destructive plant-eating insect with a wide host range, attacking more than 80 plant species and causing massive economic loss. “FAW prefers crops in the grass family, to which maize and rice belong.” Koroma further disclosed that since 2016, the pest has continued to ravage maize fields at an alarming rate. “Maize is not only a major staple food crop at the national level and relevant to the food security and nutrition of nearly 200 million people, but also a key input for industry,” said Koroma, warning that attacks by armyworms have major implications for the food availability and industrial output in the country.