A crop-eating armyworm is seen on a sorghum plant at a farm in Settlers, northern province of Limpopo, South Africa

Johannesburg - An outbreak of fall armyworms destroying crops across Africa may cost the continent about $3 billion in lost corn output in the coming year, according to an estimate by the Centre for Agricultural and Biosciences International.

The alien pest, which is prevalent in the Americas, attacks more than 80 different plant species, according to a joint statement issued Friday by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, known as Cimmyt, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

The caterpillars pose a “frightening risk” to food security on the continent, said B.M. Prasanna, director of the Global Maize Program at Cimmyt.

The group issued the statement following a conference on the outbreak held this week in Nairobi and cited a “conservative” cost estimate by CABI sanitary and phytosanitary coordinator Roger Day.

Read also: Counting the devastating cost of Fall Armyworm

Fall armyworms have already been reported in countries across southern, west, east and central Africa.