The Federal Government has revealed its determination to tackle the effect of aflatoxin on food production to enhance healthy living in Nigeria.
The permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, made this known at an inception workshop on Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ technical support to aflatoxin management and mitigation in Nigeria held in Abuja.
He stated that the initiative would help to achieve proper nutrition and food security for all Nigerians as well as promote sustainable economic development.
“Aflatoxin control has been identified as one of the key nutrition-sensitive, cost-beneficial interventions to reduce malnutrition. [To this end], the ministry is prioritising the control and mitigation of aflatoxin contaminations in our food and feed produce in Nigeria.
“It was as a result of the above grave concerns and the negative public health and economic impact of mycotoxins in Nigeria food system [that] 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 said.
Represented by the director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Mrs. Karima Babangida, Umakhihe highlighted that the technical cooperation programme (TCP) was officially approved by FAO-Nigeria and jointly signed with the ministry on June 22, 2021.
According to him, the project is expected to be implemented in Kaduna, Oyo, Kano and the FCT. The key activities to be implemented under the TCP include inception workshop, acquisition of aflatoxin rapid detection kits/laboratory materials, training of laboratory staff, recruitment of a national consultant, training programme for aflatoxin risk communication, documentary and radio jingles, support value chain actors to adopt and implement aflatoxin mitigation techniques and awareness on aflatoxin safe products.
“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 per cent 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.
“It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food. If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide safe and nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centered rural development and protecting the environment,” he added.
In his welcome address, the national project coordinator and a deputy director at the ministry, Dr. Rasaq Oyeleke, said that the essence of the inception workshop is to provide a platform for stakeholders and development partners in the agricultural sector to deliberate on a work plan on measures to mitigate the effect of aflatoxin in our food production.
In his remarks, the FAO country representative in Nigeria, Mr. Fred Kafeero, who was represented by the assistant country representative, programmes, Mr, Suleman Abubakar stated that: “The project is aimed at contributing to Nigeria’s efforts to put 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.
“Aflatoxins have attributed to about a 3rd of global liver cancer cases with 40 per cent 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 (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Izegbe, 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 at the national and state levels.