1.8 mln people face hunger in Malawi as armyworms devastate maize fields

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LILONGWE, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Fall armyworms have destroyed 144,000 hectares of maize fields across Malawi, affecting 467 thousand farmers, the country's agriculture ministry has confirmed.

Pricilla Mateyu, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, admitted to the local media Monday that the fall armyworms had impacted on the farmers, but she said the ministry was putting measures to solve the problem.

She said Malawi government, through the Agriculture ministry, was distributing pesticides in all the country's agricultural development divisions for farmers and also busy helping farmers with technical expertise to curb the problem.

The current level of fall armyworm devastation in Malawi is almost three times higher than that of 2017 when 133 thousand farmers were affected in 20 of the country's 28 districts, forcing President Mutharika to declare the districts as disaster area.

Meanwhile, the country's latest report on food insecurity assessment has indicated that over 1.8 million people will face hunger in the 2019/2020 growing season.

The figure has sharply increased from estimated 1.06 million people that the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee came up with in May as food insecure population in the country during the said season.

"The November 2019 assessment has shown an increase in the number of food insecure people from 1,062,674 to 1,879,391 across the country," reads the report.

Wilson Moleni, the country's Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, has attributed the increase in the number of food insecure people to low availability of maize on the market leading to higher prices of the grain.

A 50-kg bag of maize in Malawi is currently costing up to 27.2 U.S. dollars (around 20,000 Malawi kwacha), which doubles the government recommended price.

According to Moleni, high maize prices, food inflation and fuel prices are reducing purchasing power of vulnerable households.

The Commissioner has also observed that low tobacco prices at the auction floors further reduced income for households, forcing them to oversell the grain they had in stock. Enditem

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