Farmers in the country can now fight aflatoxin in food crops, thanks to government initiative to strengthen marketing and distribution of Aflasafe a natural product that fights aflatoxin.
Agriculture Principal Secretary (PS) Prof. Hamadi Boga confirmed that the government has contracted a biological crop protection company -Koppert Biological Systems- to distribute the farm input to all farmers in the country.
Prof. Boga said that Aflasafe, a new technology developed a few years back to fight Aflatoxin in maize, groundnuts, and other food crops will be sold to farmers at Shs.201 for one kilogramme.
“For long farmers mainly the small scale have been grappling with high presence of aflatoxin in maize more than the standard level of parts per billion (PPP) of 10ppp in Kenya and 4ppp in European Union. The new technology has been achieved after intensive research work of over 15 years, going forward we expect the country will benefit from safe food,” said Prof. Boga.
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Health experts and local scientists have blamed the high presence of the aflatoxin to liver cancer, suppresses the immune systems, and retards growth and development of children, among other health problems.
In a speech read on his behalf by Ministry’s Director of Research and Innovation, Dr. Oscar Magenya, at a Nairobi hotel, while unveiling the distribution of Aflasafe, Prof. Boga said that the move will have the associated benefit of reducing health risks of consuming aflatoxin-contaminated food.
The distribution of the farm input, Boga added, will shield the country against economic burden of managing resultant chronic illnesses such as cancer.
“This milestone was the outcome of a great partnership between The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Prof. Boga.
He added, “For any new technology to be useful to the public, it would need to be adopted and widely used. This is the reason why KALRO went ahead with a process to identify a competent distributor through an open and competitive process,” he said.
The company was picked out of seven applicants that had applied for the tender after Government sought an expression of interest last year.
The PS said that maize is recognized as a key contributor to food security, serving the staple food needs of more than 90 percent of the Kenyan population.
“With a national production of 40 million bags and a consumption of 52 million bags, the country perpetually experiences a maize deficit. The government aims to increase Kenya’s maize production from the current 40 million to 67 million bags by 2022,” said the PS.
He added that achieving this target would be futile if in turn a big percentage of this maize is contaminated with aflatoxins as this leads to condemnation and destruction of such produce.
Koppert Biological Systems Kenya Limited General Manager, Charles Macharia, stated that his company has a wealth of experience in handling biological crop protection products and have a wide distribution network which will ensure the products reach all farmers.
Macharia explained that the price of Sh.201 of Aflasafe is affordable to majority of farmers.
“Equally, our plan is to involve distributors and agro-dealers based in the counties and must be fully licensed to avoid sale of counterfeits. We are aware of the counterfeits challenge in the country, especially if and when the product becomes popular and the volumes increase. However, we have lined up some mechanisms to protect the farmers from that and we are working on traceability model from the factory all the way to the retail by using the available technology such as the scratch and SMS type which is already in process,” explained Macharia.
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Director General (DG), Dr. Eliud Kireger, said that they have also discovered that aflatoxin is affecting ground nuts among other food crops.
He added that there will be a lot of training for farmers to know how to use the new anti-aflatoxin technology and embrace it in their farming activities.
“The factory price of Aflasafe stand at Sh.135 per kilogram and the same is expected to increase to Shs.201 per kilogramme, owing to logistics and transport cost,” explained Kireger.
He added that the reason they decided to engage the private sector in distribution of Aflasafe is because they currently have 157 metric tonnes of Aflasafe at Katumani Factory for the last eight months which they could not distribute because they don’t have the logistics capability.
Some of the major aflatoxin hotspots include Meru, Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, Tharaka-Nithi, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Kwale and Kajiado.