Arusha. Africa loses an estimated $670 million in rejected exports annually due to contamination by aflatoxin.
Contamination of the cereal products by the highly-poisonous chemical results in the exports failing to meet the required standards. By wreaking havoc in food stores, the highly poisonous also causes huge losses in trade revenues.
This was revealed early this week during the signing of an agreement by two international organizations to fight aflatoxin in Eastern Africa.
The pact by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) will focus aims to contain aflatoxin contamination in the grains. “This will ensure the grains are safe for human and livestock consumption and meet export standards,” IITA said yesterday in a statement.
Aflatoxin is a highly poisonous chemical produced by a naturally occurring fungus known as ‘Aspergillus flavus’ and has lately wreaked havoc on the food stores.
The fungus is found in soils and attacks important crops such as maize and groundnuts while in the field and in storage when they are not dried and stored properly.
Besides negative impact on export trade and food security, the chemical poses a serious health threat to both human beings and animals as a result of consuming contaminated foods.
“An estimated $670m is lost in rejected export products from Africa is lost each year due to contamination by aflatoxin,” said the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA).
The lobby is currently spearheading the fight against the fungus whose havoc has also adversely impacted food security in the East African Community (EAC) partner states.
Speaking after the virtual signing of the agreement, IITA deputy director general (Partnerships for Delivery) Kenton Dashiell lauded the move, saying aflatoxin was a major impediment to trade.
“We are therefore excited about this partnership with EAGC that will, among other things, support efforts to create awareness on aflatoxin and mitigation strategies,” he said.
These, according to him, include effective, safe, affordable and easy-to-use Aflasafe technology which was launched recently to tame the fungus in partnership with the USAID.
EAGC executive director David Musalia said best practices in food safety and quality control among value chain actors would increase their potential in intra and inter-African grain trade.
“By reducing aflatoxin contamination in grains to safe levels, Africa could meet international food safety standards, thereby creating a huge opportunity for increase in grain exports potential”, he said