Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Limited says it has spent about K8 million to fight the locusts outbreak that hit its sugar cane and maize fields in Chikwawa, but said the battle is far from over until the source, Mozambique, is dealt with.
Illovo Sugar (Malawi) technical field manager responsible for agronomy Peter Chiipanthenga said this yesterday in his brief to Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda who visited the company’s Nchalo Estate to appreciate the impact of the damage caused by the locusts.
The locusts hit the estate early this month from Nsanje. The minister also toured maize the company was subcontracted to grow through winter cropping to mitigate the impact of the food shortage in the country.
Government engaged Illovo to grow maize at its Nchalo Estate to supplement its maize stocks after the recent Malawi Vulnerability Assessment committee (Mvac) report put the population facing acute food shortage at 73 percent of the estimated 17 million population.
Illovo’s project came under threat from the locust outbreak which before hiting the estate had damaged over 30 hectares of maize in Nsanje District.
The company said it killed the swarms in 24 hours through boom (knapsack) and aerial sprays.
Said Chiipanthenga: “We hired a plane from Makandi Aviation to do aerial spray and indeed killed all the locusts that affected our fields, but we cannot say we have won the battle against the locusts until we deal with the source.
“It is a dangerous locust and it caught us unaware. Anytime we can be attacked again because our action only dealt with the locusts that affected us, but as Illovo we are now prepared.”
He said the company spent K8 million.
According to both Chiipanthenga and Shire Valley Agriculture protection officer Ringstone Taibu, Malawi requires the intervention of the International Red Locust Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (Irlocsa) based in Zambia to use its mandate to deal with the source of the locusts in Mozambique.Development Division (ADD) principal crop
However, Chaponda was non-committal on when the Irlocsa would intervene, but said Malawi is a member of the organisation and, as minister responsible, he is the current chairperson of Irlosa. He said logistical processes have been undertaken to have the team here.
The minister also hailed Illovo for managing the situation quickly, observing that it posed a great danger to the nation as it could frustrate winter cropping which government is banking on as of now.
During the visit, it was also established that some of the sprayed locusts damaged crops in smallholder farmers’ gardens around Nchalo Estate while some flew down to Shire Valley where it is believed to have died.
The locust, which has been identified as African Migratory locusts, first appeared at Nyamula Irrigation Scheme in Nsanje on July 22 where it damaged immature maize plants before spreading to Bangula and finally crossing into Chikwawa