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Farmers Maize to be tested for Aflatoxin before being stored

Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) has said that all maize stored in certified warehouses will have to be tested for aflatoxin levels.

This is one of the control storage conditions which will require to be monitored for quality and food safety standards.

According to AFA interim Director General Anthony Mureithi, once a farmer has harvested his crop and transports it to a certified warehouse, the grain is then checked to ensure that it meets the stipulated quality standards.

“AFA focus is on ensuring consumer protection and building competitiveness in the agriculture sector and with the increase focus on the quality of produce and products we aim to become a competent authority in the certification of primary agricultural products” Mureithi said

Initially some regions in the country have been taking their maize to be stored without the recommended level of 10 parts per billion and this has largely affected most stores being blamed for poor handling.

Interim head of Food Crops Directorate Leonard Kubok said that   the regular testing of aflatoxin in maize is part of the new reforms being fast-tracked by the national government.

Speaking during a media tour in the North Rift to inspect and assess the National and Cereal Produce Board (NCPB) Warehouses, Kubok said that under the new reforms, all value chain players will have to ensure their maize is delivered aflatoxin free.

“Through the reforms the government wants to address the issue of storage of maize which has been a problem particularly for small scale farmers and households and in order to solve the problem a warehouse marketing system will assist “.

There are maize grading standards which normally sets aflatoxin limits but these standards have previously been only implemented in the formal marketing channels despite mostly maize in the country being known to be sold through informal marketing systems.

“Under the new reforms, there are scientific rooms that are being mounted by the NCPB before it starts receiving maize from farmers”, Kubok said.

The government plans to install six laboratories at NCPB depots in in Kitale, Eldoret, Nakuru, Nairobi, Machakos and Meru counties to help in testing aflatoxin levels in grains.

NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote, said the laboratories will be fixed before the end of this month and that they have already procured infrastructure to a tune of Ksh 5 million and installation has already started.

“We expect the exercise will be concluded by the end of this month and we are as a board encouraging farmers, millers and traders to utilize the NCPB aflatoxin testing laboratories” Kimote said.

NCPB regional manager in the North Rift said that it will now be a requirement to check on the aflatoxin levels of maize coming into the NCPB depots stress free.

Farmers will be paying Ksh 1,500 for a test sample but for those farmers who will be storing their maize at the NCPB stores, they will get the services for free.

This according to NCPB, is much lower than the private labs which have been charging farmers between Ksh3,000 to Ksh 5000 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,

Uasin Gishu County Executive in charge of agriculture, Samuel Yego called upon traders buying maize from farmers and also from the border towns to be very careful  and instead of just drying out in the sand to make use of the storage facilities being offered by NCPBas this will help in fighting the 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,” Yego  said.

At the beginning of this month National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) partnered with Koppert Biological systems to promote the use of Aflasafe- (KE) product among farmers.

Recently, NCPB had to also destroy in conjunction with public health almost 125,000, 50 kgs bags of maize which were infested by aflatoxin which is a great loss in terms of food and funds used to buy maize

The maize which had been lying in the NCPB stories during 2017/2018  and 2018/2019 production years would have cost the government an estimated Ksh190 million.

Regional Manager of the Koppert biological systems company Charles Macharia  said the Presence of aflatoxin in food crops mainly maize has been a big challenge in the country leading to huge loss of the commodity.

NCPB plans to increase promotion campaigns of Aflasafe during the upcoming short rains as farmers prepare to plant their crop.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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