Scientists are calling for urgent action to halt the spread of a pest that is destroying maize crops and spreading rapidly across Africa.
The fall armyworm poses a major threat to food security and agricultural trade, warns the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI).
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) plans emergency meeting in Harare between 14 and 16 February to decide emergency responses to the armyworm threat.
The armyworm, so called because it eats its way through most of the vegetation in its way as it marches through crops, is native to North and South America but was identified for the first time in Africa last year.
Mr Jayne Crozier, of CABI, said the armyworm’s presence had now been confirmed in West Africa and was thought to be present in the south and east of the continent, many parts of which rely on maize for their staple diet.
Zambia has used army planes to spray affected areas with pesticides.