Increase Funding To Control Aflatoxin Contamination

Maize1The government has been urged to increase funding to the Food Research Institute (FRI) to control aflatoxins contamination of maize and other food products in the country.

SEND Ghana, a non-governmental organisation gave the advice in a policy brief on study on aflatoxins in the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The study titled: “Reducing aflatoxins in maize to improve the income of smallholder farmers in Ghana,” was undertaken by SEND Ghana in collaboration with FRI and the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD) among some smallholder maize farmers in the Techiman municipality of the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The study indicated that there was high levels of aflatoxins in maize produced in the country, above the Ghana Standard Authority permissible level of 15ug/kg.

“In Ghana, levels in maize above the national permissible levels (total aflatoxins 15uk/kg) have been found in 66 samples out of a total 202 samples analysed over the past three years and still counting,” the study said.

The study said a reduction in aflatoxins in maize would ensure that maize produced from Ghana was not rejected on the international market.

It also said it would improve the income of smallholder farmers to reduce poverty in the country.

Aflatoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi apergillusflavus and apergillus-parasiticus and mostly found in maize, groundnut, cassava, and yam chips.

According to health experts, aflatoxin is the potential cause of cancer and suppresses the immune system causing humans and animals to be more susceptible to diseases.

Among other causes, the study attributed the aflatoxins to poor drying techniques adopted by the farmers.

The study said high temperatures and high relative humidity in Ghana as is the case in the Tropics are the good conditions for the growth of these fungi.

Among other recommendation, the study called on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Grains Development Board and the Ministry of Health to, as a matter of utmost importance, recognise exposure to aflatoxins as a major public health issue and incorporate prevention and control in social development issues.

“The effect of aflatoxins in maize cannot be reversed and the only solution is prevention,” the study stressed.

It said the district directorates of agriculture should collaborate with Grain West Africa and other private sector organisations to provide storage infrastructure for maize farmers.

SEND Ghana said the objective of the study was to reduce aflatoxins in maize produced by smallholder farmers to enable them sell their produce to the World Food Programme and the international market.

Dr. King David Amoah, the National Coordinator of ECASARD, the advocacy partners for the study throwing more light on the study in an interview with Times Business, said millions of people living in the country consume high and unsafe levels of aflatoxin through their diets on a daily basis and that posed adverse health and economic effects along the food production and supply value chain.

He said there was the need for education for the public to sort out the infested maize from the good ones to promote good health.

For farmers, he said, good agronomic practices were required right from planting to harvesting and storage of maize to combat the situation.

The Women’s Leader of ECASARD, Mrs Gladys Serwaa Edusah, said her outfit had organised a national and district policy dialogue on aflatoxins to create awareness and educate participants on the effects of aflatoxins on health.

She also said ECASARD smallholder maize farmers at Techimaan and Nkoranzah North and South had been educated on the dangers of aflatoxins and and best storage practices.

By David Adadevoh

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