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February 07, 2009

West African nations team up to fight caterpillars

Four West African nations have joined forces to do battle against a species of caterpillars laying waste to crops in the region. The agriculture ministers from Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have created a team to look into the threats posed by what are believed to be Achaea catocaloides caterpillars.

Crops in central Liberia and southern Guinea have already been ravaged by the caterpillars, and other countries in the region fear the damage will spread further.

"The five-man technical committee will begin work immediately," the ministers from the four countries forming the Mano River Union said in a statement after meeting in Monrovia on February 6. "They will design plans of action that will be implemented by all member countries."

An expert from Brazil already working with Liberia will assist the new committee.

Liberia's agriculture minister said earlier that the caterpillars were not army worms as previously believed but the Achaea catocaloides species, which could turn out to be even more destructive. Experts warned that the insects could attack more crops than army worms, including coffee and cocoa.

Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa producer and many of its plantations are in the west of the country in a region that borders Liberia.

AFP

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