Armyworm ‘invasion’ must be declared national disaster – Annette Steyn

DA says maize farmers are struggling to fight this plague and need funding to assist them

Armyworm ‘invasion’ must be declared national disaster

13 February 2017

The DA will today call on the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Mr Des van Rooyen, to declare the ‘invasion’ of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) a national disaster, as this will trigger the release of much-needed funding to assist maize farmers who are currently struggling to fight this plague.

It is vital that the government respond effectively and efficiently, and as soon as possible. The consequences of not doing so could lead to job losses which our country cannot afford, should farmers lose crops.

The Fall Armyworm could also compromise our food security, pushing the price of food up, affecting the ability of millions of South African to put food on the table for their families.

As it stands, South Africa meets all the requirements to declare this crop infestation a national disaster, as per Section 23(6) of the National Disaster Management Act (NDMA) which allows a disaster to be declared nationally if more than one province is affected.

Reports this past week have confirmed that the Fall Armyworm has now spread to 6 of our 9 provinces – Limpopo, North West, Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has been unacceptably slow to respond to these developments. In fact, they were warned four months ago, in October 2016, by the International Association for the Plan Protection Sciences (IAPPS) which confirmed the outbreak of the Armyworm in Nigeria and warned that it could spread rapidly.

The declaration of a national disaster is critical in ensuring that the Treasury allocates emergency funds to COGTA, to ensure that the National Disaster Management Fund distribute disaster grants to all the affected provinces as a matter of urgency.

Given the abysmal response to the national drought experienced last year, the DA will not sit back while yet another disaster is allowed to reach catastrophic levels before action is taken.

Issued by Annette Steyn, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 13 February 2017