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March 12, 2009

Liberia invaded by crop-eating caterpillars again: ministry

Liberia has been hit by a second invasion of crop-destroying caterpillars which have wreaked havoc in the west African nation, agriculture ministry officials said last week.

"We have two weeks maximum to react. We have our teams out on the field preparing to contain the situation," Moses Subah, head of the agriculture ministry's technical team, said.

"We have mobilised experts from the sub-region; experts came from Brazil, from the United States, who provided technical assistance," Agriculture Minister Chris Toe saidd. "Following the spraying of the caterpillars, the 11 teams have been involved in mopping up activities well as the search for adult moths. This exercise has proven very successful in containing further spread."

The first wave of crop destroying caterpillars was identified as Achaea catocaloides, a very destructive pest that attacks a wide range of crops including coffee and cocoa, key cash earners.

Over a hundred Liberian villages have so far been affected by the plague and authorities warn that hundreds of thousands of people could face hunger because the caterpillars have devoured all the crops.

Liberia has declared a state of emergency and called on the international community to help it deal with the plague, which has also spread to parts of Guinea and threatens Sierra Leone's border region with Liberia.


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