Govt opts for sensitisation to curb aflatoxins in agric products

Ms Hasifah Ariniitwe displaying her peeled matooke (bananas) on bare ground to dry at Rwabaganda Village, Kyarurangira Sub-county in Rakai District on July 9, 2020. PHOTO/AMBROSE MUSASIZI

What you need to know:

  • Aflatoxins are poisonous compounds produced by moulds/fungus known as Aspergillus flavus. 

Government is considering carrying out more sensitisation and giving free tarpaulins to organised farmer groups to promote the quality of harvests and reduce aflatoxins. 

According to Agriculture Minister, Mr Frank Tumwebaze ‘‘poor post-harvest handling practices are a serious issue that should be handled if the country is to get rid of aflatoxins.’’

“Government is considering incentives to improve the quality of produce,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday. 

Aflatoxins are poisonous compounds produced by moulds/fungus known as Aspergillus flavus. 

These toxins are produced when the moulds invade not-well-dried and may lead to death in both humans and animals.

Mr Tumwebaze said government will also train farmers in post-harvest handling of agricultural produce to address gaps in standards within the food chain.

“We are going to handle this through the Parish Model Initiative and ensure that the 40 percent produce we lose during post-harvest handling processes is saved,” he added.

Uganda is preparing to join the rest of the world to celebrate the World Food Day on October 16. The national celebrations will be held at the National Agriculture Research Laboratories- Kawanda, Central Uganda. 

In March 2020, government directed farmers to stop drying agricultural produce on bare ground saying it compromises and lowers product quality. 

This was after Kenya banned importation of maize from Uganda, saying ‘‘it contained aflatoxins.’’ 

Nairobi has since lifted the ban, but issued tough measures to maize traders that include having all maize traders registered with a demand that consignments entering Kenya be accompanied with certificates of conformity on aflatoxin levels and that traders have to provide details of their warehouses.

In Masaka City, Mr Phillip Luyombo Muluya, the chairperson of Kabonera Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Society, said:

“It has been our sole responsibility as leaders of farmers’ cooperatives to enforce the total ban on drying produce on bare ground but most farmers have no money to buy drying facilities like tarpaulins.” 
Ms Kellen Kizito, the vice chairperson  of Kyotera Farmers’ Cooperative welcomed the government plan to provide farmers with free tarpaulins.

Masaka District production officer, Dr Lawrence Mayiga urged farmers to continue policing themselves because poor quality produce entirely affects their profits.

“As farmers wait for government assistance, those with capacity should buy proper crop drying materials or give loans to low income earners to buy facilities as well,” he said. 

Agriculture is considered the back-borne of Uganda’s economy employing more than 70 per cent of the population, according to government data.  

However, despite increased production and consumption of especially major staple crops like cereals, legumes and oil seeds, quality and safety is still a major challenge.

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