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NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya has asked farmers to burn tracts of maize fields and plant alternative crops to mitigate the spread of a deadly maize virus that has the potential to wipe out 80 percent of the crop, a senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture said on Wednesday.

The disease - maize lethal necrosis - has caused fears of soaring food prices in east Africa's biggest economy, which faces a deficit of the staple every year and bridges the gap through imports from Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.

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