SA officials await test results amid armyworm invasion concerns

Farmers in Limpopo, North West and Free State reported the destructive caterpillar.

Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The Agriculture Department says if test results confirm that the armyworm has infiltrated South African maize crops it will have to bring in a new pesticide to deal with the scourge.

Farmers in Limpopo, North West and Free State reported the destructive caterpillar, adding further strain since the beginning of the drought.

Some observers in the agricultural sector say it’s too soon to panic, but countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia have already experienced an outbreak of the destructive worm.

If the worm continues to spread, South Africa may be placed under pressure to export more maize crops with the country producing around 42% of maize in the SADC region.

AgriSA's Wandile Sihlobo says countries in SADC region import around 70% of their maize crops from South Africa but better weather conditions could see the country producing over 11 million tons of maize.

“We could have decent crops and we could help those countries who are struggling in the region.”

The Agriculture Department's Bomikazi Molapo says they will only know what action to take once the test results come back.

“New pesticides may have to be registered as it’s not a case we’ve ever had in this country before.”

While the Agriculture Department is yet to confirm when the test results will be released, other industry players speculate they should be out by the end of this week.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)