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Armyworm attacks Ethiopian farmland

It’s the latest among a slew of African countries falling victim to the pest, which has emerged in regions already plagued by drought and wheat rust outbreaks.

Ethiopia’s farming ministry announced that the fall armyworm has now ravaged crops across 10,700 hectares of the country’s land.

It’s the latest among a slew of African countries falling victim to the pest, which has emerged in regions already plagued by drought and wheat rust outbreaks.

Native to North and South America and named for its ability to “march” rapidly through crops, the pest has a penchant for corn, an essential staple food crop in large parts of hunger-stricken Africa.

The FAO warned earlier this year that the worm’s debut appearance in Africa could dampen prospects for anticipated “good crop harvests” this farming season.

As Agri Investor reported at the time, CABI scientists had positively identified the presence of the armyworm in Zimbabwe as well as the its “possible presence” in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, but Ethiopia had not yet made that list.

A Reuters report today quoted Zebdios Selato, the Ethiopian farming ministry’s director for plant healthcare, as stating that “35,000 liters of chemicals have been purchased and distributed to spray affected areas with insecticide.” The affected areas lie mainly in southern parts of Ethiopia. 

By some estimates, the number of private equity funds active in Africa has swelled from 12 in the 1990s to more than 200 today, while funds under management have risen from $1 billion to upwards of $30 billion.

EXEO and Fairfax Africa are among those betting on Africa, and as Agri Investor noted in this week’s editorial commentary, these firms along with government-backed programs and agtech advances should attract more investment into the region.

But there are always risks in unproven markets, and the fall armyworm is one of many factors that could stymie investor demand going forward.

The Ethiopian farming ministry did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.