Maputo — Pests and disease sweeping through Mozambique have destroyed at least a third of the country’s agricultural crops over the past 11 months, government spokesperson Ana Comoana has said.

She said more than 41,000ha of crops in Mozambique have been affected by pests, including caterpillars and fruit flies, with more than 3,000ha of maize being lost, and coconut and banana production also suffering.

On Tuesday, Mozambique’s cabinet approved a 160-million metical ($2.6m) action plan to combat pests and disease.

The country is one of the world’s poorest and is in the throes of a debt and financial crisis. Much of Southern Africa, including Mozambique, is still recovering from a devastating El Niño-driven drought two years ago.

Mozambique was also one of several countries in the region invaded by an infestation of crop-damaging fall armyworms in 2017, an invasive species with a taste for maize.