Cassava Disease: FG raises alarm over threat to farms

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Cassava free from the cassava disease
Symptoms of the dreaded viral disease, Cassava Brown Streak Disease
(a) Dark brown lesions on the green portion of the stem of a severely CBSD-affected cassava plant. (b) Drying and death of axillary buds on woody stem tissue. (c) Dieback of shoot tips. (d) Feathery chlorosis. Irregular chlorosis associated with secondary and tertiary veins. (e) Dry brown necrotic rot in tuberous roots characteristic of CBSD in mature cassava plants. (f) Healthy foliage of a CBSD-resistant cultivar.

THE Federal Government of Nigeria is concerned over the looming threat to farms and farmers of the viral disease, Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), which had been ravaging East Africa and Central Africa, but now spreading to West Africa.

The Head, Font and Tuber Crops in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Ayodeji Bobby, announced this Thursday, in Abuja at the 2019 Cassava Investment Forum.

Calling for a collective effort in securing Nigeria and the West African region against the virus, he said that the disease had caused over 90 per cent loss in a cassava farm in the country.

He urged professionals at the forum to use their expertise and experience to advice the ministry on key areas to the development of the cassava sub-sector in Nigeria.

Bobby said that Nigeria remained the largest producer of cassava, and that 36.8 million matric tonnes of cassava were harvested from 3.13 million hectares in 2013.

According to him, this was with an average yield of 11.7 tonnes per hectare,  adding that this however accounted for an insignificant fraction of global value-addition of cassava.

Bobby, who represented the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Mohammed Umar, noted that, “but because of the Federal Government’s support through the change agenda, the government raised the production to about 54 million metric tonnes at 15 tonnes per hectare and develop efficient value-added chains.’’

He said that this was for high quality cassava flour, dried chips; starch and sweeteners; ethanol and traditional foods.

Meanwhile, the ministry, in collaboration with the organisers of the investment forum, the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB/CAVA) trained master bakers on the promotion and adoption of 20 per cent cassava bread. The Federal Government provided them with working equipment and capital to create local sustainable markets for cassava and generate employment.

He said that the IITA also provided research on products and good quality stems to the farmers.

According to reports from the News Agency of Agency (NAN), the Director for Development and Delivery of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Afred Dixon, said that Nigeria’s cassava annual production was above 50 million tonnes, and that the increased from 35 million tonnes in the early 90s was not by accident.

He said that this resulted from stakeholders in research development to all other aspects of cassava value chains such as processing, mechanisation and markets.

Dixon said that in spite of the achievement of having more than 50 million tonnes annual production, some challenges still confront the cassava crop. 

“Our yield per hectare is still low, it is less than 10 tonnes per hectare, we are still battling with the problem of cyclical glut, there are still processing challenges.

“Weeds are still problems in cassava, and several others, consequently Nigeria is yet to tap the full potential of the cassava crop which is estimated at $5 billion annually,” he said.

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