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Aflatoxin forces plants to import nuts


Groundnut farmers in Fluorspar, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, show healthy produce after harvest last year. Processors are, however, turning to exports, citing aflatoxin contamination of local nuts. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Processors of groundnuts are increasingly resorting to imports due to high levels of aflatoxin in the local crop, making it unsafe.

For instance, the Equatorial Nut Processor is importing nuts from Malawi and Uganda with low levels of the fungal toxins.

Groundnuts in Kenya have high levels of aflatoxin than any other crop produced locally, according to State research agency.

“The local groundnuts do not meet our specifications in terms of quality and that is why we opt for imports to meet our manufacturing requirements,” said Moses Mwangi, the firm’s chief executive officer.

In February this year, Nuteez peanut was banned from the shelves by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) after it was found to have more than the required levels of aflatoxin. The product has, however, been restored after compliance. The recommended level of aflatoxin in a given grain is 10 parts per billion.

“We are happy with the research that has been going on which led to invention of aflasafe, which offers remedy to the aflatoxin menace,” said Mr Mwangi. In 2015 KALRO and other international partners established a plant that manufactures bio chemical called aflasafe, which has the ability to tame aflatoxin.

Mr Mwangi was speaking when he signed a memorandum of understanding with Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro).

The MoU will, among other things, see Kalro train farmers on good agronomical practices that would help in reducing the levels of the aflatoxin in the groundnuts.

Kalro will also give farmers advise on the type of groundnuts to be planted on a given ecological zone in order to boost their productivity.

Consuming food that is contaminated with this fungus exposes children to stunted growth ,with scientists arguing that it can be linked to the cancer of the liver.

The fungus has also exposed Kenya, which is a food deficit country, to more risk of being food insecure given the amount of maize that is wasted annually as a result of this menace.

For instance, the government declared at least 2.3 million bags of maize unfit for human and livestock consumption and trade as a result of aflatoxin contamination recently even as the country, still grapples with the shortage of maize.