HARARE: International experts hold emergency talks in Harare on Tuesday to tackle an outbreak of crop-eating “armyworm” caterpillars advancing across several African countries. The armyworm has already caused damage to staple crops in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana, with reports also suggesting Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia are affected. Experts say it appears to be the first time that the “fall armyworm” species from the Americas has caused widespread damage in Africa. “So, farmers do not know really how to treat it,” said David Phiri, the United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization’s coordinator for southern Africa. “Nobody seems to know how it reached Africa,” he said, adding that it started in places like Nigeria and Togo, which had it last year. One theory is that the caterpillars arrived in Africa on commercial flights from South America or in plants imported from the region. The caterpillars eat maize, wheat, millet and rice – key food sources in southern and eastern Africa, where many areas are already struggling with shortages after the most severe drought in recent years.