By Edwin Nwanojuo
Concerned about the level of rejection of Nigerian Maize by industries due to Aflatoxin contamination, the Federal Government and HarvestPlus have engaged stakeholders in order to adopt safest ways of planting and storing Maize to avoid contamination.
Nigeria produces about 12 million metric tons of maize annually, but some of the industries in the country prefer to import Maize for industrial use because some the locally produced Maize are contaminated with Aflatoxin.
The Country Director of HarvestPlus, Dr Paul Ilona said many Maize farmers have lost their money because of rejection of their Maize by industries due to contamination by Aflatoxin.
He said HarvestPlus was working towards ensuring that Nigerian farmers produce not just Aflatoxin free Maize, but also quality Maize with the essential micro nutrients.
Dr Ilona said “our role is to contribute to ensuring that the Nigerian Maize meets international standard for quality. We have had cases of high level of Aflatoxin in Maize, and this will make industries that are in the food sector to want to reject that Maize.
“Now, if we don’t address quality issue, it means we would not build that link between our farmers and industries, and once that is missing, then the farmers are likely to bear the loss and that may affect our production in the country”.
He said in Zaria recently, Maize was rejected by some Lagos industries due to contamination by Aflatoxin. Dr Ilona noted that HarvestPlus would assist Nigerian Maize farmers in producing Maize that contains the right quality for industrial use.
“Recently we heard that some food industries rejected Maize from Zaria, to those farmers, it is a big loss, and I think we owe these farmers a duty to guide them towards ensuring that the maize that gets supplied to these big industries in Lagos are of the highest standards.
“And again when you are looking at quality, it’s not just about contaminants, quality also has a lot to do with the nutrient level of your maize. Today we know clearly that to meet our nutritional requirements, micro nutrients are very essential, and it’s not just about maize delivering carbohydrates, it is also about Maize delivering some of these essential micro nutrients that our bodies require.
“So, Maize quality has become a critical issue because we all appreciate the role that Maize is playing in the agricultural sector if Nigeria today. Put together we know we produce about 12 million Maize MT now, but I can assure you that Nigeria can take the lead in ensuring that the whole of West Africa has access to high quality maize, its high time we started looking at quality because growing poor quality maize will not add quality to Agriculture in Nigeria”, he added.
Also speaking with journalist, the National President of Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Bello Abubakar, said Aflatoxin has been a major challenge facing Maize farmers in Nigeria.
He, however, expressed optimism that the meeting would proffer a permanent solution to the issue of Aflatoxin so that industries would patronize local Maize farmers instead if importing.
“We actually appreciate this movement for the introduction of AflaSave for Maize production in Nigeria because one of our major challenge especially for the importers of maize is this Aflatoxin contamination, they are claiming that our maize in Nigeria is contaminated with Aflatoxin.
“So, going to collaborate with the ministry and other relevant agencies concerned to use AflaSave so that we now produce Aflatoxin free Maize in Nigeria, from there, there is no claim of Aflatoxin contamination of maize production in Nigeria.
“So, it will make an impact because it will now reduce this claim of the maize processors in Nigeria about the Aflatoxin contamination, so we really appreciate and we are going to use it”, Abubakar said
The MAAN National President, however differed on the rejection of maize in Zaria, adding Aflatoxin contamination is minimal in the northern part of the country compared to the Southern part of Nigeria.
“The issue of our members Maize rejected in Zaria is a blackmail and we even challenge this through the media, because there is no way that any company reject our maize from Kaduna or from any northern state.
“This Aflatoxin contamination they are talking about is a worldwide problem, but in Nigeria, it is not the whole part of the country that is affected with this Aflatoxin, it is only some parts of this country especially South South, South East or South West, but in the northern part of Nigeria, this Aflatoxin is very minimal, so it’s not true”, he noted.