THREE boxes containing 30 liters of chemicals meant for spraying against army worms on the Copperbelt have been stolen, acting Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo has confirmed, describing the act as sabotage.
The consignment arrived in Ndola yesterday for onward distribution to the affected farmers.
Mr Katambo said the missing chemicals could have catered for around 60 hectares of land for at least 120 households, and called for the arrest of the culprits.
Copperbelt has received 5,195 liters of four different chemicals meant to kill the army worms, which have ravaged the crops in the province.
The minister said when he handed over the chemicals to Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo it was unfortunate that people resorted to stealing chemicals meant for the farmers and that the situation happened on the Copperbelt, which was the most hit.
He said President Edgar Lungu was working tirelessly to ensure that there was eradication of the army worms and that the situation was sad.
“It is unfortunate that we have received a report of theft of three boxes of chemicals which would have helped to eradicate army worms. We want the chemicals to reach the intended farmers; we are spending sleepless nights to ensure that the chemicals reach our farmers. There is too much sabotaging in this project. This is a
calamity that is before us and we need the efforts from all stakeholders and not stealing,” he said.
Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga said the driver who brought the consignment from Lusaka should make a formal report to the police.
Ms Katanga assured that police would investigate the matter and bring to book the culprits.
“Make a formal report of the theft and value and the batch number, we will zero in on the officers on duty and the driver of the truck and we will cast our net wider. For this one we are going to investigate and we will furnish you with all the information,” she said.
Ms Katanga suggested that once there was a consignment coming to the Copperbelt, police should be informed in order to deploy more officers to guard the property.
She said this would help the police to enforce and pay special attention to the property.
Mr Lusambo said such acts should not be tolerated in the province and that police should work hard and bring to book the culprits.
The Copperbelt has so far received more than 7,000 liters of chemicals to eradicate the army worms.
The province received 589 liters of the chemicals in the first consignment, 2,000 liters in the second batch and 5,195 in the third, bringing the total to 7,780 liters.
Provincial agriculture officer Obvious Kabinda said looking at the extent of the damage to crops, the chemicals received so far would go a long way in helping the farmers eliminate the pests.
Dr Kabinda was happy that what had been received so far was adequate and that the province was still conducting investigations.
He said the latest update on the extent of damage showed that about 15,093 hectares of land had been invaded, and the chemicals received would be adequate.