by Peter Mutai
NAIROBI, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Africa is currently making losses of up to 670 million U.S. dollars annually from export opportunities due to the prevalence of aflatoxin in crops and animal products, an African Union official said on Thursday.
Elizabeth Ogutu, the AU-Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) Strategy and Operations Senior Officer said that the problem is more prevalence in maize, groundnuts and sorghum as farmers and consumers know little about it and the risks associated with them.
"We need to apply a multi-sectoral approach to eradicate the menace from the continent," she said during a symposium on safeguarding Africa's food from the effects of the chemicals.
Ogutu said that Senegal, Uganda and Gambia are losing 139 million, 38 million and 2 million U.S. dollars respectively from trade yearly as a result of the chemicals.
She said the problem is becoming complex as it is fast becoming a problem in the whole continent where it is affecting key staples that are both very common foods in all of sub-Saharan Africa.
She noted that AU-PACA is currently piloting a project on management of the aflatoxin in maize, sorghum and groundnuts in Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Gambia.
Ogutu said milk sub sector is equally affected as that sold in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Nairobi Kenya has the highest content of aflatoxin Africa.
The AU official said that the two African cities milk are 100 percent aflatoxin contaminated. "The chemical level is very high by international standards and is a major health risk to consumers," she added.
Ogutu 40 percent of milk consumed in other parts of Kenya are also contaminated with the chemical.
George Mahuku, a plant pathologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said that farmers require cheaper technology to enable them identify the chemical in their food chain.
Mahuku said aflatoxin that is a soil-inhabiting poison enters into crops as they grow, and persists after harvest, and further finding its way into people's bodies if food consumed is also contaminated.
Mahuku called on African governments and stakeholders to invest in public awareness to help people know the dangers posed by aflatoxin.
"Aflatoxin is a major deterrence to marketing of maize grown in arid lands in Kenya," the chief research officer at the Kenya National Irrigation Board Raphael Wanjogu said.
He said that Kenya's plan of irrigating 80 percent of its Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) is thwarted by aflatoxin and salinity.
In 2014 and 2016, aflatoxin killed 10 and 18 people respectively in Kenya. Globally it causes 40 percent of deaths and an estimated 5-30 percent of liver cancer, the highest incidence being in Africa with 30 percent.