Every year, Nigeria loses money in exportable crops due to heavy presence of aflatoxins in crops like maize, groundnut, sorghum, sesame, cassava, pepper, cotton seeds.
Aflatoxins are poisonous chemicals produced by Aspergillus flavus (molds). The molds reside in the soil and decaying organic matter, which can infect the crops, both in the farm and in storage.
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It infects crops from flowering until maturity. Maize and groundnut are particularly susceptible. One cannot see, smell or taste aflatoxin, yet both people and animals are very sensitive to it.
While acute exposure to aflatoxins can kill, prolonged exposure leads to impeded growth, liver disease, immune suppression and cancer, with women, children and the poor most vulnerable.
Few years ago, makers of animal feeds and other household consumables complained that the Nigerian maize and other oil seeds like groundnut were highly infected with aflatoxins, which forced many poultry farmers and feed millers to clamour for importation.
On Tuesday, stakeholders met at a workshop organised by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Harvestfield Industries Limited to discuss the results of aflatoxin levels test in maize sampled nationwide under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (CBN-ABP) 2020 wet season project.
The workshop was aimed at prompting concerted efforts towards the adoption of appropriate technologies for the reduction of aflatoxin in crops, food, feeds and livestock as required by global food quality standards.
Dr Oyeleke Razaq, the head of the Deaprtment of Nutrition, Crop Protection and Food Safety of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD); Mr Martins Awofisayo, the managing director of Harvestfield; Dr Alejandro Ortega, a plant pathologist, IITA, and other leaders of crop associations, have called for a wider adoption of Aflasafe technologies to combat aflatoxin in crops.
Other participants from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), FMARD, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Maize Growers Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), National Groundnut Producers Processors and the Marketers Association of Nigeria (NGROPPMAN), as well as those from the National Sesame Seed Association of Nigeria (NSSAN) and the National Association of Sorghum Producers, Processors and Marketers of Nigeria (NASPPAM) and others, called for an urgent action against aflatoxin.
A communiqué at the end of the event suggested the revival of the inter-ministerial committee on aflatoxin regulation, and enforcement of food safety laws in Nigeria, enactment of technical policy regulating the testing and enforcement of allowable aflatoxin limit in food and feed processing and distribution industries, as well as capacity development and provision of infrastructural testing facilities at relevant grain collection centres.