The cassava mosaic virus, a disease with the potential to devastate whole harvests, is now present in at least five provinces in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture recently disclosed.
In a statement released this week, Hean Vanhan, director of the General Department of Agriculture, said the cassava mosaic virus was first reported in Ratanakkiri in 2015, but has now spread to Mondulkiri, Kratie, Tboung Khmum and Kampong Thom.
The cassava mosaic virus causes leaf mottling and may kill host plants.
“The virus was first reported in Rattanakiri province two years ago. Back then, we took action and banned farmers from moving affected cassava seeds to other provinces to avoid contagion,” Mr Vanhan said.
“However, the virus managed to spread, and has so far found its way to Mondulkiri, Tboung Khmum, Kratie, and Kampong Thom.
“Fortunately, there is no indication the virus has reached the western provinces of the country,” he added.
Mr Vanhan said the ministry has issued a new directive banning the movement of seeds across provinces to stem the spread of the virus.
Kuy Huot, director of the Department of Agriculture in Kratie, told Khmer Times that only a small number of farms in the southern province have reported being attacked by the virus.
He said they have been able to contain it with the help of a campaign by provincial authorities to educate farmers on the subject.
“On top of that, we are encouraging farmers to plant cassava varieties that are resistant to the disease, and urging farmers to follow crop rotation methods to stop the disease from spreading.
Mr Huot added that provincial authorities will destroy affected crops, and guide farmers when purchasing cassava seeds next season to make sure they buy from reliable sources.
Song Saran, CEO of Amru Rice, a company that recently entered contract farming schemes with communities in Kratie and Kampong Thom, said they have already put in place measures to prevent contamination.
He said Amru Rice is using seeds imported from Thailand that are resistant to the disease.
“As we comply with all regulations for growing organic cassava, we have not encountered any issues,” Mr Saran said.
He added that farmers whose crops have been affected are probably using the same cassava variety they were using last season.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Cambodia, cassava is currently the most important upland crop in the country. Its production has increased rapidly due to growing global demand for a variety of products derived from cassava.
In Cambodia, cassava is cultivated in 13 provinces. There are more than 570,000 hectares planted with cassava, yielding around 13 million tonnes of produce a year.