Ten regions have been affected by armyworms and more are in danger of being invaded by the dreadful pests, threatening the welfare of farmers and the 'Kilimo Kwanza' initiative.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Mohamed Muya, said the affected regions include three of those leading in the production of grains in the country, referred to as the 'big five.'
These are Mbeya, Iringa and Morogoro which together with Rukwa and Ruvuma, form the 'big five' team. The latter two are also among regions in danger of armyworm invasion, according to the PS.
Mr Muya named other regions that have already been affected by the pests as Dodoma, Shinyanga, Mwanza, Coast, Kilimanjaro, Tanga and Lindi.
He told The Citizen yesterday that he had already written to regional administrative secretaries (RAS) of all the regions notifying them about the problem.
At the same time, he said, the ministry has dispatched a team of experts to all the regions to work closely with field extension officers in controlling the pests.
"Apart from sending experts in the field we have also sent pesticides to assist the regions fight the armyworms," Mr Muya said.
The current armyworms have not been a surprise as the responsible department made a forecast of their invasion. It therefore reported in advance to enable the ministry take necessary measures to control them, he said.
The 'big five' are instrumental for grain production in the country and in 2008/09 produced a total of 10.872 million tonnes of grains. This was against national needs of 10.337 million tonnes in 2009/10, reflecting a surplus of 0.534 million tonnes.
Therefore, the emergence of armyworms among the 'big five' regions is a bad omen to the country's grain production. But, according to Mr Muya, the ministry had taken steps to address the situation.
He said after being notified about the emergence of armyworms, the ministry set aside enough pesticides that would enable it fight the pests in all the affected regions, including the 'big five.'
"We have managed to supply them (regions) with enough pesticides I hope that they will assist in the battle and manage to restore the situation for farmers," Mr Muya said.
Yesterday this paper reported the emergence of armyworms in Lindi and Morogoro regions.
Earlier reports said a total of 1,071 acres of various crops had been destroyed by armyworms in Kilwa District, Lindi Region.
The highly destructive pests have also been spotted in nearly all villages of Kilombero District, Morogoro Region.
Reports reaching The Citizen yesterday indicated that the pests had destroyed more than 300 acres of various crops in Nyangao area, also in Lindi Region.
The Kilwa district agricultural officer, Mr Paul Kyakaisho said the worms first invaded it earlier this month, and had since spread to 11 of the district's 20 wards. They have affected a total of 31 villages.
He named some of the affected wards as Kikole and Kandawale, each of which has four villages. Others are Mandawa, Likawage, Kipatimu, Chumo, Mingumbi and Kilanjeranje.
Mr Kyakaisho said 210 litres of pesticides had been sent to the affected villages.
"The problem is now under control after farmers used the pesticides in their farms there is no need to panic," he said. He explained that his office was stepping up efforts to kill the pests in the next few weeks.
Mr Kyakaisho asked farmers in areas that had not been affected to be on the lookout for the pests.
Agricultural officers have warned that the problem was likely to worsen, and urged farmers to take the initiative to control them.
The district agriculture and livestock officer, Ms Mary Kitua, said farmers should make personal efforts to control the armyworms because the district's allocation of pesticides to fight the pests was inadequate.
She said the first wave of armyworms was reported in the district on December 22 this year at Mang'ula A and B, Mgudeni and Kisawasawa villages in Mang'ula division.
Farmers in these villages were quick to identify them as they had been trained to spot various pests, she said.
"We have since 2007 been training farmers how to identify various pests, including armyworms. The swift discovery of the latest armyworm invasion will help us tackle the problem more effectively.
"We knew that it was just a matter of time before armyworms struck," Ms Kitua said, noting that the training programme was sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
She said after getting reports on the emergence of the pests, they went to the regional office to ask for pesticides to fight them.
However, they were provided with only 242 litres of a pesticide known as Decis. The amount was too little compared to the extent of the problem, she added.