• An aflatoxin test in private labs is double what NCPB will be charging at between Sh3000 to Sh5, 000 per sample.
•Gilbert Rotich, NCPB regional manager in charge of North Rift said it is now a requirement to check on the aflatoxin levels of maize coming into the NCPB stress.
The governmen plans to install analytical laboratories in Kitale, Eldoret, Nakuru, Nairobi, Machakos and Meru to test on levels of aflatoxins in maize delivered to the stores.
Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga confirmed that aflatoxin is a big challenge in Kenya and East Africa, and that all food value chain players including millers and farmers should ensure quality and safety of food.
"It it important for every player in the food value chain to have an analytical aflatoxin testing capacity. This should be either internally or one can partner with other institutions that have certified testing laboratories," he said. The PS spoke to the Star on phone.
Joseph Kimote, the managing director National Cereals and Produce Board, said besides providing drying and storage facilities to farmers for the long rains maize harvest, the board will also offer aflatoxin testing service.
He said in order to ensure food safety, farmers, millers and traders are free to use NCPB’s aflatoxin testing laboratories in the five Counties.
NCPB will charge Sh1, 500 per sample but the aflatoxin testing services will be free for farmers. This will be lower compared to aflatoxin test in private labs that costs between Sh3000 to Sh5, 000 per sample.
“Aflatoxin testing service is charged at a very competitive rate. The laboratories together with other depots, can also grade grain to determine their quality,” said Kimote, adding that the laboratories, together with other depots, can also grade grain to determine their quality.
Millers have raised concern over high levels of aflatoxin contaminated maize in the market, with some counties reporting aflatoxin levels of over 1500ppb, which is more than the recommended level of 10 parts per billion.
Speaking to journalists at this office, Samuel Yego, Uasin Gishu County executive in charge of agriculture, said traders buying maize from farmers should make use of the drying and storage facilities being offered by NCPB to help in fighting aflatoxin contamination.
“Harvesting at the North Rift has started and the peak will start in November all the way till January. Most of this maize is dried on the ground which is a big contaminant of aflatoxin. In addition, these traders also handle grain coming from the borders of Uganda that is sometimes contaminated with aflatoxin. We need a unified effort to ensure our food is safe,” he said.
Gilbert Rotich, NCPB regional manager in charge of North Rift said it is now a requirement to check on the aflatoxin levels of maize coming into the NCPB stress.
He said in the North Rift region, there will be an aflatoxin testing machine in Kitale and Eldoret depots and that all the grains from farmers must go for 100 percent analysis for aflatoxin.
“We have had incidents of aflatoxin in the market and because of the free flow of grains from our neighboring countries, we must ensure what comes through our stores is safe. We will start testing with this year’s long rains seasonal harvest,” he said.
Stephen Simiyu, the chief operations officer in Bora Foods in Nakuru County, said one of the requirements from the Kenya Bureau of Standards- the regulatory agency for any food processing company, is to have an in-house lab to test aflatoxin as a compliance issue. He said they also offer the aflatoxin testing services at a fee of Sh3,000.
“When we buy maize from farmers, we have an elaborate process where we look at the physical quality of the maize to determine whether it is fit for human consumption. We also measure the moisture content which should be around 13 percent and then we take samples to our lab to test for aflatoxin,” he said.
Simiyu said it takes about 45 minutes to get results and they sometimes get results as low as six ppb because Nakuru is not a high risk area of aflatoxin.
According to the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, some of the hot spot areas of aflatoxin in Kenya include Machakos, Makueini and Tharaka Nithi Counties.