Africa loses up to USD 670million due to Aflatoxin annually

By Sarjo Camara-Singateh

The Gambia government with its partners launched a new product Aflasafe to combat the presence of aflatoxin in The Gambia’s food. Mr. Konlambigue said internally, approximately 40% of the produce in African markets exceeds the aflatoxin maxima allowed. Externally, Africa potentially loses up to USD 670 million annually in lost export opportunities. He made this statement during the launch of aflasafe on the 24th of March 2017 at Ocean Bay Hotel.

Mr. Abdou Konlambigue, Managing Director of Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization Program, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said “Aflatoxin is a poison produced by the soil-inhabiting fungus Aspergillus flavus that infects crops in the field leading to postharvest losses.” He said it is common in human food and animal feed, aflatoxin can occur throughout the food value chains, compromising food security, health and trade. Per aflatoxin causes an estimated 5–30% of liver cancer worldwide, the highest incidence being in Africa (30%). “It suppresses the immune system and stunts child growth. Aflasafe SN01 is a revolutionary biocontrol product which consistently reduces aflatoxin concentrations in treated maize and groundnut up to 95% in comparison with crops from untreated fields. “Aflasafe provides protection from plot to plate”.

He stated that in Senegal and The Gambia, aflasafe SN01 has been registered by the Sahelian Pesticide Committee (CSP) of the Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILLS) in 2016. The goal is to contribute to improving food safety and increasing the income of smallholder maize and groundnut farmers through the use of aflasafe”. He noted that its activities will result in (i) increased availability and accessibility of aflasafe and (ii) improved access to markets for maize and groundnut containing safe levels of aflatoxins.

He stated that many people continue to believe that aflatoxins are a post-harvest issue. He noted that yet aflatoxin contamination starts on the farm when the crops are growing. Aflasafe SN01 reduces the contamination on the farm while crops are growing, and its protection continues at storage. “This 5-year project is slated to use aflasafe products in 500,000 ha in 11 countries where aflasafe is already a nationally registered product or is likely to be registered soon. They are Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

The Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization Project (ATTC) is designed to carefully and efficiently identify strategic options for partnership with private companies or Government entities, execute those partnerships, and help to ensure the distinct aflasafe products reach millions of farmers. The Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Sait Drammeh launched the product, the government of the Gambia looks forward to working with IITA.

Mr Drammeh acknowledges the efforts made by the African Union and ECOWAS for fighting against aflatoxin in food across the continent. He said the launch of aflatoxin biological control product call Aflasafe SN01 is very timely as aflatoxin continues to pose a major challenge to agricultural productivity and the attainment of food security. It is also a major public and animal health problem. He indicated that aflatoxin is having huge and negative economic impact on Gambia.

The Agriculture Permanent secretary said The Gambia through its selection and its identification as a PACA pilot country, with the appointment of PACA country officer, was able to undertake the aflatoxin situation analysis in the country, noting that as a government they are deeply concerned about the findings of the study and are committed to ensure the implementation and action plan informed by the country assessment.

“The overall economic impact assessment vividly shows that the most significant impact is on international trade. The aflatoxin challenge continues to have negative impact on our groundnut exports to the point that they are no longer able to export high volume aflatoxin safe edible groundnuts to international markets that offer premium prices which is a big challenge.

“We note with concerns with their inability to enhance their foreign exchange earnings from groundnut exports due to aflatoxin. The human health losses would have significantly reduced if liver cancers cases were diagnosed early to permit appropriate treatment such as  surgery and chemotherapy.

The participants were drawn from diverse background including the farmer organisations. Mr. Colley welcomed the participants and the launch session was chaired by Ms. Ndey Naffie Ceesay PACA country officer.