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2 cassava viruses coming, agency warns Nigerians

West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE), the body in charge of addressing diseases of root and tuber crops, yesterday raised the alarm over two emerging cassava diseases in Nigeria.

Executive Director of WAVE, Justin Pita, at the second annual general meeting of stakeholders from the West African sub-region in Abuja, identified the two new diseases as begomovirus and brown streak viruses.

He said that the diseases, which originated from East Africa, were moving toward Central Africa and West Africa, adding that Nigeria was not, therefore, immune to its effects.

He said the viruses had negatively affected cassava production in sub-Saharan Africa, adding that it would be disastrous if the federal government failed to initiate urgent measures to forestall their outbreak in Nigeria.

“The diseases are not yet in West Africa or Nigeria, in particular, but we have to create tangible awareness on its existence and its possible impact on the nation’s cassava production if eventually it happens,” Pita said.

“One of the key roles which WAVE plays is to address the fact that effective fight against viruses requires a strong understanding of how the disease in question spreads, which allows us to plan ahead for its control.

Pita, therefore, urged the federal government to be aware of the existence of the diseases, while striving to train more food scientists to tackle them.

He said that WAVE was working to monitor and predict the emergence, evolution and spread of these viruses by bringing together 10 research institutes, universities in seven countries in West and Central Africa.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the forum was attended by stakeholders from some African countries and food scientists from Europe.

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