CONTAMINATED CEREAL

Millers raise alarm over aflatoxin maize in market

They say most of the maize farmers have did not dry properly due to rain

In Summary
  • 90 per cent of the maize being sold by farmers is contaminated with aflatoxin
  • EAC in the process of drafting an Aflatoxin Bill to fight the problem in the region
Maize infected with aflatoxin
DANGEROUS: Maize infected with aflatoxin
Image: FILE

Millers have raised the red flag over contaminated maize sold in the market.

Ken Nyaga, chairman of United Grains Millers Association, said most of the maize on sale is highly affected by aflatoxin.

“Most of the maize with farmers did not dry properly due to the short rains that went on till January and now they are contaminated. Then some soils in the country have problems because aflatoxin also comes from the soil," he said.

 

Nyaga said 90 per cent of the maize harvested is infected with aflatoxin.

“Aflatoxin is negatively affecting the processors and the farmers because millers cannot buy contaminated maize. Most of the soils in many parts of the country have been contaminated since aflatoxin is also in the soil,” Nyaga said.

The chairman said the government should look into this and help farmers to fight aflatoxin.

But aflatoxin is not only a Kenyan problem as it is also affecting the East African Community, leading to the drafting of a bill.

Fahari Marwa, head of the agriculture in the EAC secretariat, said they had sought Sh20 million from USAID to support the proposed legislation within the six member countries.

“We have discussed with the USAID, and they have agreed to fund the process. We hope the funds will be available in the next two or three weeks so that we can start the process immediately,” he said.

Marwa spoke during a follow-up meeting on the EAC aflatoxin control strategy that was passed by the council of ministers in February 2018.

 

He said agriculture ministers in the region agreed that instead of having a policy guideline on how to fight aflatoxin, it was better to come up with an aflatoxin Bill.

“The EAC secretariat will collect views from member states for drafting of the bill. After that, it will be taken for public hearing and later to the EAC assembly for enactment. He said the process might take two years,” Marwa said.

He said they will work with experts from partner states to agree on the issues that member countries want addressed in the Bill.

The EAC Aflatoxin Bill, he said, seeks to help the EAC countries fight the problem.

Kenya is an aflatoxin hotspot in Africa. In 2004, about 125 people died after consuming maize contaminated with aflatoxin.

Other countries where aflatoxin poisoning has been reported include Tanzania in July 2016, Ethiopia in October 2015 as well as Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Uganda.

Kenya was the first country in East Africa to start promoting the use of aflasafe, a biocontrol product to help farmers control aflatoxin.

Marwa said the initiative was also being applied in Tanzania and Rwanda in processing but other member states have challenges.

Charles Macharia, Koppert Biological Systems general manager, said farmers can access the aflasafe biocontrol product for the long rains planting period.

“One kilo of the product is retailing at Sh200 and one requires four kilos per acre. Aflatoxin is a major threat to food security and the product will help fight it,” Macharia said.

Edited by Henry Makori