FG raises the alarm over new cassava disease

The Federal Government has raised the alarm over a recent virile disease, Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), ravaging East and Central Africa now making its way to West Africa.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Muhammed Umar,  made this known in Abuja during the 2019 Cassava Investment Forum.

Umar, who was represented on the occasion  by Head, Font and Tuber Crops in the ministry, Mr. Ayodeji Bobby, called for a collective effort in securing Nigeria and West African region against the virus.

He noted that the disease had caused over 90 percent loss in a certain cassava farm in the country.

He, therefore, urged professionals at the cassava forum to use their vast knowledge and experience to advise the ministry on areas that were key to the development of cassava sub-sector in Nigeria.

The permanent secretary said that Nigeria remained the largest producer of cassava, adding that a total of 36.8 million metric tonnes of cassava were harvested from 3.13 million hectares in 2013.

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He said that 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.

“But because of the Federal Government support through the change agenda of the government raised the production to about 54 million metric tonnes at 15 tonnes per hectare and develop efficient value-added chains,’’

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

He said 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 percent cassava bread.

He also added that the Federal Government provided them with working equipment and capital to create local sustainable markets for cassava and generate employment.

He said that the Institute of International Tropical Agriculture (IITA), also provided research on products and good quality stems to the farmers.

IITA Director for Development and Delivery, Dr. Afred Dixon,  said that Nigeria’s cassava annual production was above 50 million tonnes, adding that the increase 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, there were some challenges still confronting 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 five billion dollars annually,” he said.

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