The Coordinating Director of the Nigerian Agricultural and Quarantine Service (NAQS), Vincent Isegwu, has stressed the need to be on the watch out for viral diseases that are capable of destroying farm produce during the harvest season.
The diseases, according to him, are Cassava brown streak, maize nitant necrosis and coconut yellowing disease.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday in Abuja, he said “There are some diseases which are lurking in the corner which the country must be very aware of. They are so devastating; they are viral, which means they cannot be treated, and we need to prepare and face them squarely”.
“One is for Cassava and it is called Cassava brown streak disease. It can cause 100% rot of cassava tubers on the ground. Another is maize nitant necrosis which also causes complete devastation and does not even allow plants to mature. It withers, dries up and becomes unproductive and the coconut yellowing disease causes the foliage (leaves) to be dead so that all you see is the stem standing like a telecoms mast or electric poles
“And you can imagine anything of such devastation, 100% affecting our cassava which is a major staple in Nigeria. Maize is also our staple; we roast maize, cook maize, make ‘tuwo’ and even ‘akamu’. So, we cannot afford to be careless about these diseases coming into the country”.
Isegwu said the cassava brown streak disease is already in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Congo Republic and is moving from Southern to Central Africa.
His words: “So, we need to be careful so we don’t allow any cassava cuttings into the country, not from those countries and not from anywhere.
“Because they could come from such countries, enter another country before coming into Nigeria and you say no, it didn’t come from those Southern African countries but from the Eastern flank, not knowing that it transits through one of their West African neighbours or North African neighbours before coming down. So, we must not allow any vegetative cutting for cassava to enter the country, except we are very sure of the source and there is a pre-arrangement that such cottons have come for research or whatever”.
The NAQS DG assured that presently, all the border stations are aware of this and are mounting surveillance for them. “But what we are doing now is to put a proposal to government of the cost implication for the monitoring to avert it. I need specialist training to be able to identify it or else when you see it, you will think it is a cassava mosaic disease which is not the case”, he added.