Maize farmers who are currently battling a fresh invasion of the fall armyworm have decried a rise in pesticide prices.
The transboundary pest, which last struck in 2017 damaging about 15 per cent of the maize crop, has so far been identified in more than half of the country's districts.
Estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture put the maize crop area affected by the fall armyworm at 2,455 hectares. Out of this, some 2,151 hectares had been treated thanks to an ongoing nationwide campaign to mitigate the spread of the pest.
While the Ministry said that the recommended pesticides are available in agro-dealers’ shops across all maize farming districts, farmers said that individual efforts to control the pests were hindered by the rising cost of the chemicals.
In some 16 districts where maize crops are under attack including Burera, Musanze, Kirehe and Ngoma, farmers said that pesticide prices had doubled in some instances.
A 100ml bottle of Roket for example, costs up to Rwf1,500, having risen from between Rwf700 to Rwf800 in the previous seasons, they said.
In Musanze, farmers are buying the chemical at Rwf1,200, while in Ngoma and Kirehe a number of them have resorted to using alternatives like Dudu and Thiodan whose prices are also rising, according to Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of maize farmers' co-operatives federation.
There are four recommended chemicals for the fall armyworm namely Lambdacyhalothrin; Cypermethrin, Profenofos; Cypermethrin, and Pyrethrin EWC.
“Some of these chemicals are even more expensive when you consider the capabilities of small scale farmers. We are requesting that the costs be subsidised otherwise farmers may not effectively fight the fall armyworm,” said Mr Tugirinshuti.
It is estimated that a farmer with a one acre re farm needs 500ml of pesticide to spray the crop at least four to five times in order to avert potential losses.
Eugene Twambazimana, a Musanze maize farmer said he needs Rwf30,000 for the pesticides and more than Rwf20,000 to pay workers in order to effectively manage the pest.
“It is not easy since we had no ready budget to foot these costs.
The rise in prices makes it harder to tackle the fall armyworm because it attacked at a time we were yet to recover from huge expenses incurred in buying seeds,” he said.
The Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Eugene Kwibuka said the farmers' claims would be investigated and action taken where the rise has been reported.
He said that an ongoing campaign by the Rwanda Agriculture Board is supporting farmers to fight the pest.