NIGERIA – The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has reiterated its commitment to combat aflatoxin menace in Nigeria’s food system, at the Inception Workshop on Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations Technical Support to Aflatoxin Management and Mitigation in Nigeria held in Abuja.
The Permanent Secretary (PS) Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr Ernest Umakhihe, said the initiative which is being implemented in collaboration with relevant stakeholders would help to achieve proper nutrition and food security for all Nigerians as well as promote sustainable economic development in Nigeria.
He was represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Mrs. Karima Babangida
‘’Aflatoxin control has been identified as one of the key nutrition-sensitive cost-beneficial interventions to reduce malnutrition. The ministry is prioritizing the control and mitigation of Aflatoxin contaminations in our food and feed produce in Nigeria,” Dr Umakhihe stated.
He said that it was as a result of the above grave concerns and the negative public health and economic impact of mycotoxins in Nigeria food system, the Management of FMARD had a compelling need to seek the intervention of FAO to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Government in the control of Aflatoxins.
He added that the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) was officially approved by FAO-Nigeria and jointly signed with the Ministry on June 22, 2021. He further stated that the project is expected to be implemented in three project states being Kaduna, Oyo, Kano and the FCT.
The key activities to be implemented under the TCP according to him is Inception workshop, acquisition of Aflatoxin Rapid Detection Kits/Laboratory Materials, training of laboratory, recruitment of a National Consultant and training programme for Aflatoxin risk communication.
Other activities include documentary and radio jingles, support value chain actors to adopt and implement aflatoxin mitigation techniques and awareness on aflatoxin safe products.
As stated by the PS, in Nigeria, the Country-led Situation Analysis and Action Planning (C-SAAP) study commissioned by PACA in 2016 has shown that about one-third (31 per cent) of maize meant for human consumption in Nigeria contains unsafe levels of aflatoxins. The contamination of maize ranges from 1.10 – 260.00 µg/kg.
Similarly, the study showed that up to 51 per cent of the groundnut kernels and 58% of groundnut products destined for human consumption as well as 82 per cent of the groundnut cakes (GNC) contain aflatoxins at levels that exceed the EU regulatory limit of 4 ppb.
The Permanent Secretary pointed out that it is time to rethink how food is grown, shared and consumed in Nigeria.
“If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide safe and nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes while supporting people-centred rural development and protecting the environment”, he noted.
Stakeholders to deliberate on mitigation work plan
In his welcome address, the National Project Coordinator and Deputy Director in the Ministry, Dr Rasaq Oyeleke, said that the essence of the Inception workshop is to provide a platform of stakeholders and development partners in the agricultural sector to deliberate on a work plan on measures to mitigate the effect of aflatoxin in the country’s food production.
The FAO Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Fred Kafeero, who was represented by the Assistant Country Representative, Programmes, Mr. Suleman Abubakar in his goodwill message stated that
“The project is aimed at contributing to Nigeria’s efforts for putting in place effective food safety and quality control systems that are not only key in safeguarding the health and well-being of people, but also in fostering economic development and improving livelihoods by promoting access to domestic, regional and international markets.”
He added that Aflatoxins have attributed to about a 3rd of global liver cancer cases with 40percent of them occurring in Africa, making liver cancer the top cause of cancer mortality.
Also speaking during the workshop, the Director-General, National Agricultural Quarantine Service, Dr Vincent Isegbe, represented by Dr Solomon Sunday said the project would ensure the safety of food eaten and traded.
He also said that Aflatoxin effects have become a crucial issue that must be tackled not only at the national but also at the state level.