The Fall Armyworm could threaten the food security and livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers in Asia, the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) warned in mid-August 2018. The invasive crop-eating pest is highly likely to spread further from India, with South East Asia and South China most at risk.
Recently detected in India - the first time it has been found in Asia - the insect has the capacity to fly over long distances (100 km per night) and ravage crops all year round given the region's favourable tropical and sub-tropical climate, which means there are always crops and weeds around that the Fall Armyworm can feed on. The Fall Armyworm can eat maize and some 80 other crops, including rice, vegetables, groundnuts and cotton.
In Asia, where small-scale farmers cultivate about 80 per cent of the region's farmland, rice and maize are among the most produced and consumed cereals. Over 200 million hectares of maize and rice are cultivated annually in Asia. China is the second-largest maize-producing country in the world, and over 90 per cent of the world's rice is produced and consumed in the Asia-Pacific region.
Native to the Americas, the Fall Armyworm has already spread across Africa where it was first detected in early 2016. By early 2018, all but 10 (mostly in the north of the continent) African states and territories have reported infestations and the pest has affected millions of hectares of maize and sorghum.