James Emejo in Abuja
Stakeholders have called on the government to boost awareness on the dangers associated with the consumption of aflatoxin contaminated food which cost the country about $1 billion annually.
Rising from a one-day workshop on ‘Scaling Aflatoxin Solution in Nigeria’s Crop Value Chain,’ in Abuja, which was organised by Harvestfield Industries Limited and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), participants urged the federal government to establish legislations that would ensure that farmers use Aflasafe agro chemicals that would prevent Nigerians from consuming aflatoxin contaminated foods which usually resulted in diseases such as liver cancer, stunted growth among other diseases.
Speaking at the occasion, Managing Director, Harvestfield, Mr. Martins Awosanya, said the government needed to create enabling environment to ensure farmers don’t plant maize, groundnut without the aflasafe agro chemical to neutralise the harmful effects of aflatoxins.
Giving instance of the aflatoxin control in Rwanda, he said the government imposed a law that made it a criminal offence to plant maize without aflasafe, arguing that the Nigerian government could borrow a leaf and follow suit in ensuring that Nigerian farmers consume wholesome food.
Awosanya said the country must not allow other African countries to overtake it in terms of exportation of Nigerian crops due to aflatoxin contamination.
According to him, Ghana is putting in place formidable policies to ensure that crops are not rejected at the international market.
Nigerian exports, particularly cowpea, had faced rejections in the European markets in recent times because of alleged harmful chemical contents inherent in the products.
However, Awosanya said: “We have spent $5 million to build the largest agrochemical company but there is no enabling environment to let this thing thrive, and that is what we are asking for – economically we are ready but the regulations are not being enforced.
“In Ghana you cannot deliver maize to Nestle food without testing it. In Nigeria most maize delivered to food processors are not tested.”
However, he pointed out that the aflasafe solution is a natural product that would control aflatoxin, adding that there is need for Nigerian farmers to embrace it.
On his part, Head of Nutrition, Crop Production and Food Safety Division in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Oyeleke Rasaq, pointed out that aflatoxin is a silent killer, saying it is responsible for many liver cancer cases in Nigeria and Africa as well as the stunting of children under the age of five.
He lamented that the country had lost a lot of revenue to the destruction caused by aflatoxin infested produce both at the local and international markets, stressing that it was inevitable for government to support Nigerian farmers to produce maize that are aflatoxin free through the technology developed by Harvestfield.