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Zimbabwe’s Corn Production Threatened by Armyworm Infestations

Half of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces are infested with armyworms that are threatening corn production because the country has a limited supply of the pesticide required to eradicate them.

The government has 2,800 kilograms (6,173 pounds) of the chemical, Carbaryl, in stock, said Godfrey Chikwenhere, head of the Plant Protection Research Institute at the agriculture ministry.

“That’s probably not enough given the magnitude of the problem,” he said today in a telephone interview from Harare, the capital. “We’re distributing Carbaryl and sprayers to the affected areas right now.”

The armyworm, a caterpillar-stage moth which the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies as a threat to crops in Africa, Asia and the Americas, can “move from field to field at an alarming rate,” Chikwenhere said. A late start to Zimbabwe’s rainy season will already have hurt corn production, he said.

Armyworm outbreaks have been recorded in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces. Zimbabwe consumes about 2.2 million metric tons of corn each year, 1.4 million tons of which is eaten by people and the rest by livestock.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Johannesburg at blatham@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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