UGANDA – The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is urging educational institutions like schools to reject grain products from suppliers that don’t adhere to the necessary standards.

According to UNBS, doing so will force the millers to adhere to production standards and, in the end, make Uganda’s products marketable both locally and abroad.

The market for grain products, Uganda’s top export of food, has put the biggest strain on the government as it struggles with quality challenges relating to various agricultural products.

Kenya banned Ugandan corn in March 2021 due to high aflatoxin levels, although exporters and trade analysts called this a fallacious justification given that Kenyan maize itself was of equal or lower quality.

The reports and subsequent UNBS findings of the low quality of the foodstuffs, primarily maize, and beans, that had been delivered to the government by local businesses as relief food for Covid-19 affected folks, however, reinforced the charges against Uganda’s product standards.

Scientists at the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) also recently found that maize, sorghum, and groundnuts in Uganda have aflatoxin concentrations that are 10 times or greater than the safety level advised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to David Livingstone Ebiru, Executive Director of UNBS, the realization that the nation had been consuming substandard food was eye-opening and led to the campaign’s escalation.

Aflatoxin is no longer the issue, stated Ebiru, but rather other types of poisoning, particularly by heavy metals.

He noted that recent operations around the nation have focused on the milling machines’ quality as well as their age since as they are used, their parts wear out and metals end up in the flour. Ebiru claims that they are currently urging millers to buy non-wearing equipment.

There are now over 230 certified businesses nationwide, up from just two back then, with a bigger concentration in Kampala’s Kisenyi and Nakuwadde in the Wakiso area.

Daniel Arorwa, the Surveillance Manager at UNBS, says that all the millers they have reached are either measuring up to the standards or already certified, but that there are some which are yet to be reached mainly because of accessibility.

For instance, he said, industrial parks in significant towns have been certified, and those that are found to be in non-compliance are shut down until they meet the requirements.

The results of a study conducted by the Global Development Company, DAI, revealed that few Ugandan consumers were aware of the quality of the food they were eating, and those who were didn’t make any effort to exercise their legal entitlement to wholesome, safe food.

Collins Apuoyo, DAI Country Chief of Party, said at a meeting between UNBS and school owners in Kampala, that the millers are aware that they produce and sell low-quality food, but they place the blame on the raw material suppliers.

The owner of DWT (U) Ltd in Kisenyi, Tuuma Moses, claims that the cost of modifying the machines to meet the necessary criteria can be close to half that of purchasing them.

According to Arorwa, a lot is done to degrade the grain even before it is put into the machinery, including the usage of handling tools, worker hygiene, and storage, among other things.

Ebiru claims that going to schools is the first step in addressing the primary consumers of grain and that they would later involve other sectors such as the police, hospitals, and others.

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