Dodoma — THE government has put under indefinite quarantine five northern zone regions following the outbreak of maize lethal necrosis disease, effectively banning trade of the grain there.
Reading the government statement on the outbreak of the maize disease in Parliament here yesterday, the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Eng. Christopher Chiza, mentioned the regions as Manyara, Simiyu, Mara, Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions.
The government has, therefore, banned buying of maize from the five regions until further notice.
Eng. Chiza said his ministry and the Attorney General's office have already prepared prevention and control rules for the maize disease, including enforcement of the ban on the transportation of the grain from the affected regions.
The ban involves unprocessed maize -- not flour. Anybody going against the enforced rules would face legal measures according to Crop Preservation Act of 1997. According to the minister, researchers found symptoms of the maize lethal necrosis disease in Mlangiri area in Arusha District and Mbulu in Karatu District in August 2012.
Following the unpleasant discovery, the government dispatched a task force to the northern zone districts bordering neighbouring Kenya to collect maize samples for testing. Laboratory tests on the samples confirmed the presence of the disease. The disease was first spotted in the Kenyan Rift Valley province of Bomet in September 2011, he said.
The disease is caused by a combination of two viruses known as Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMV) and Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SCMV) that attack maize plants, he said. Studies show that the disease spreads so fast because the vectors that transmit the two viruses - aphis, beetles and thrips - are carried by winds from long distances.
On further measures to contain the spread of the disease, Eng. Chiza said the government was conducting public education campaigns through meetings, publications, signposts and media advertisements.
Eng. Chiza assured the House that the public education campaign would continue through special radio and television programmes, adding that agricultural extension officers would receive special training on the management of the disease.
He advised farmers to use high standard and quality seeds that have been certified by authorised institutions as a precautionary measure. Other measures include application of pesticides when maize has reached 60 centimetres and uprooting of maize plants with symptoms of the disease, he said.