There are also concerns about a potential red locust infestation during the coming months in the Lake Chilwa and Lake Chiuta plain districts of Machinga, Zomba and Phalombe.
In December red locust was observed in at least 50 hectares of land where rice is grown in the Lake Chilwa and Chiuta dambo land.
In 2012, the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Southern and Central Africa (IRLCO-CSA) country representative observed that Malawi has a high concentration of red locusts in the Southern Region and if left unchecked may affect field crops.
The Lake Chilwa- Chiuta Plains were identified by IRLCO-CSA as red locust outbreak areas of Malawi and Mozambique. Other red locusts affected areas south of the Sahara are Tanzania and Zambia.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Southern Africa Weekly report of January 21 to 27, the armyworm outbreak has reportedly affected 6 164 households.
The food security challenges will be compounded by flooding which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that as of 16 January, storms and flooding had affected 5 515 households in 17 districts, which has prompted government response to the needs of affected households.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Dr James Munthali would not immediately confirm the figures of affected families by both armyworms and flooding, saying reports were still coming in.
But he said the armyworm outbreak has been reported in the Northern, Central and Southern regions with Nsanje the latest district to be attacked.
But he played down the armyworm, the crop-eating caterpillars, impact on food security.
“The impact on food security is little. There might be impact at household level, but not at national level. We have supplied sufficient chemicals alongside motorised sprayers to the ADDs [Agricultural Development Divisions] and Rural Development Programme areas. Our people are ready and we are containing the situation,” he said.
Earlier this month, Munthali stated that government pumped in K64 million (about $160m) to deal with the outbreak of armyworms that had destroyed 2 391 hectares of food crops and 779 hectares of grazing land in eight districts.
When he visited the affected fields around Lake Chilwa Basin in Zomba District, Munthali said government equipped extension officers to spray all farms with pesticides to counter the multiplication of the pests to avoid further damage.
“After spraying the fields, government will quickly provide inputs which will include seeds and fertiliser so that farmers can plant again while the rains are still on,” he said.
He added that the ministry has requested the Southern Africa Red Locusts Centre in Zambia to help in killing the red locusts as quickly as possible before they spread to other regions.
The four districts are Phalombe, Zomba, Machinga and Chiradzulu.
The widespread outbreaks of armyworms were reported in December in Machinga, Zomba, Blantyre, Mangochi, Mulanje, Phalombe, Chiradzulu and Balaka districts.
The caterpillars were reported attacking maize and pasture. Crop damage ranged from mild to severe with some areas requiring replanting.
Control was carried out by the affected farmers with technical and material assistance from the ministry.