The fall armyworm is now also in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first central African country to report the presence of the South and Central American pest in its maize fields.
According to news agency Reuters, a total of 63 000 ha of maize was destroyed in the southern parts of the country by the foreign pest since December.
The damage was found in four territories along the Zambian border, and represents 80 percent of the region’s maize production.
Scientists now fear the fall armyworm might spread to tropical Asia and the Mediterranean in the next few years.
Since the end of December, fall armyworm made its way through southern African countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique. It is seen as a serious threat to food security on the African continent.
According to data from the online grain information site, World Grain, the DRC produced a total of 800 000 tonnes of maize in 2016, with roughly 1.5 million ha of maize planted in 2015.
UN spokesperson Florence Marchal says a triple increase for a 25kg sack of maize was reported, with prices increasing from US$10 to US$30, and comes as the DRC’s other main staple crops like bananas and cassava were destroyed by other problems.
The southern parts of the country was also hit by flash floods caused by torrential rains at the end of December, and according to the FAO the country lost about 5 500 ha of crop due to heavy rains in 2016.
The Zambian government announced this week it is considering exports to the country after the DRC requested to import 20 000 tons of maize.