Contaminant costs E.Africa $670 million in lost export earnings yearly

Tuesday August 21 2018
EXPORT PIC

Grain trader waiting for customers at Majengo market in Dodoma. Maize grains and dry beans are some of the food items that contributed to increase of inflation rate in December. PHOTO|FILE

Arusha. Stringent standards by the European Union (EU) have led to Africa losing a staggering $670 million annually in exports due to aflatoxin-contaminated food exports.

Aflatoxin, a cancer-causing poisonous chemical which grows in grains, also contaminates about 40 per cent of food commodities traded locally in East Africa.

This emerged in Nairobi this week as the East Afrian Community (EAC) launched a regional programme to prevent and control the menace which continue to impact food security.

“Aflatoxin contamination poses a serious threat to human and animal health and the economies of the EAC states,” said Ms Kathryin Begeal, the USAID/Kenya regional coordinator.

She said the programme was being launched after existing efforts to mitigate aflatoxin have remained fragmented and not fully supported by the governments and donors.

She called on the EAC partner states to tackle the problem through information dissemination on the hazards of aflatoxin as given by the experts.

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Solutions to contamination by the toxic chemical have to include farmer use of Alfasafe in extension and input packages.

The EAC states, nevertheless, started to deal with the menace way back in 2014 with the aim to prevent and control its adverse effects on the food and feed value chains.

Ms Begeal, who is also the EA Feed the Future regional coordinator, urged the EAC states to mainstream aflatoxin prevention and control strategy in their national agriculture investment plans. EAC deputy secretary general (Productive and Social Sectors) Christophe Bazivamo said the adverse impacts of aflatoxin on the health of humans was a matter of concern.

Besides, USAID/Kenya, the programme is funded by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa.

The financial and technical support has also been sourced from the US Centre for Disease Control, the private sector and other development partners.

Aflatoxins is no stranger to Tanzania as deaths reported in Kondoa District, Dodoma Region, in 2016 were attributed to consumption of contaminated foodstuffs by the victims.

The EAC launched the Aflatoxin Prevention and Control Initiative in March 2014 to mitigate its adverse impacts along the food and feed value chains in the region.