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14 July 2017

Fall armyworm attack: Minority demands seriousness from Agric Minister

The Minority in Parliament has registered its disappointment with the Agric Minister who failed to appear before the House to answer questions on the threat Fall armyworms are posing to farms across the country. 

Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, said it is a threat to the livelihood of the farms as well as a food security concerns for the country. 

“It is unfortunate that Minister of state prioritises other gov’t business rather than addressing concerns raised by the people of Ghana through Parliament.

“We don’t doubt the capabilities of the deputy minster but if you consider the question asked and the responses by the Deputy Minister especially the supplementary ones, you realise the Deputy Minister was not up to date with information,” he told Evans Mensah on Top Story Wednesday. 

Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak

He was not impressed with the deputy’s answer to the question about the chemicals used in fighting the fall armyworms.

Parliament Tuesday requested the presence of the Agric Minister, Dr Afriyie Akoto to answer questions on the recent attack of Fall armyworms across the country. 

His invitation follows Joy News’ report about the fall armyworm invasion across the country. The pests continue to attack farm fields in various parts of the country despite repeated assurances by government that the situation is under control.

In his stead, one of his Deputy Ministers, Dr Sugri Bambangri, was in Parliament to answer questions, but the Minority was not happy with his appreciation of the issue. 

“There were more than four questions that the Deputy Minister was unable to answer as he is not deeply involved in the fight of the armyworms attack,” Muntaka said.

He disclosed that he was on the farm last week and he saw the results of the armyworms destructive nature and doubted the Minister’s claim that some 14000 hectares of farmlands are affected so far.

Currently, an estimated 20,000 hectares of farm fields have been infected, up from only about 1,400 hectares as at April this year. Farmers have made huge losses as a result of this. 

The country is once again suffering from an attack by fall armyworms which are still permeating through farm yields in various parts of the country.

The Agriculture Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto had said then that “it is under control, we’ve seen them spraying and by the end of the week, all the farms affected would have been sprayed and that will be the end of it.”

But by the end of May 2017, an estimated 18,200 hectares of maize farm had been affected by the worms.

The Asawase MP said the Agric Ministry should note that even those without big hectares who are affected are going to register low yield.

He also cast doubt on the efficacy of the chemical used to fight the fall armyworms claiming that the Ministry at best is only doing a trial and error with the chemicals.

The MP who is also a farmer said no one has been to his farm to give him any chemical although he is also affected a matter he described as worrying.

He added that “it is disheartening for farmers who are in the south and are preparing to go into the lean season, not knowing what to do.”

Muntaka registered his disappointment saying the minister should have allowed his deputy to rather attend whatever engagement in his stead.

According to him, it is becoming a routine occurrence in Parliament with Ministers failing to come to the House to answer questions, a posturing which shows government is downplaying the concerns of Ghanaians. 

But another Deputy Agric Minister, George Oduro, said it is unfair to request the presence of the Minister when he has gone to work on behalf of the state.

He said the Minister is in Brazil, a country which has been battling with armyworms attack for the past 35 years to learn about how they have contained the situation.

“We have managed the armyworm attack as soon as the attack started this year. If you look at the approach government took, it was the best ever as it was evident at the FAO meeting recently.

“Nigeria, Benin, Kenya and South Africa are still struggling with controlling it but Ghana’s control is more effective than those countries.

He denied that the attack has reached the reported 112,000 hectares of farm land.

 “The 112,000 is what we measured regarding where the infestation is headed and not affected and destroyed. They move in batches from district to district. The situation is not as scary as the Minority is painting it,” he said.

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