Afflatoxins: Why Tanzania loses Sh25bn in foreign groundnut trade

18Nov 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Mtwara
Guardian On Sunday
Afflatoxins: Why Tanzania loses Sh25bn in foreign groundnut trade

TANZANIA is the second largest groundnuts producer in Africa after Nigeria and the crop is almost grown across the country.

groundnut .

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) places Nigeria groundnuts production capacity at number one with 3million metric tonnes, followed by Tanzania with 1.8million metric tonnes by 2017.

Among the 15 improved varieties grown in Tanzania are Mnanje 2009, Mangaka 2009, Pendo 98 and Nari nut 2015.

Tanzania also has a vast land area coupled with alluvial soils for the growth of groundnuts. Regions where the crop is grown include Mtwara, Lindi, Dodoma, Singida, Shinyanga and Mwanza.

The groundnut crop is potentially rich in oil and fats, making it to be used for the production of cooking oil, fats and other ointments.

Dr. Omary Mponda, a researcher at the Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute, who is also the national coordinator of oil seeds research, said afflatoxins bar groundnut farmers from accessing the international market while at the same time affecting the consumers’ health.

Afflatoxins are chemical poisons produced mainly by the fungus Aspergillus flavus in various crops, including groundnuts, maize, cassava, and yam chips. They are also said to be a silent killer as they undermine human health and stunt the growth of children.

“By consuming crops with afflatoxins one can suffer from liver cancer and suppress the immune system, causing humans and animals to be more susceptible to diseases,” according to experts.

Dr. Mponda said since 2006 his centre, in collaboration with Mc Knight Foundation, has been implementing a 12-year project on afflatoxins awareness creation on groundnuts.

“We have been doing that to growers in Mtwara region, consumers and buyers,” he said while at the same time teaching farmers on the best farming practices to avoid aflatoxins in their crops.

He said so far, various researches have been conducted aimed at improving the varieties of groundnuts resistant to the mold,” he said, adding that such a variety is not easily contaminated by afflatoxins.

However, despite Tanzania ranking second in the crop’s production in Africa, the groundnut crop is dependent entirely on the domestic market with very little export, thus suffering poor prices and an unreliable market.

 The crop is sold at between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000 a kilo, which is low and unprofitable to most farmers.

According to the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) Naliendele Centre, groundnuts are sold in Europe and America where a tonne is sold for $424.

It said South Africa offers a better price of $1,473$ per tonne, adding that currently the price ranges between $1,580 and $2,800 per tonne.

It further said Tanzania that loses at least Sh25bn annually for failure to comply with international groundnut standards to enable the crop fetch foreign markets.

Groundnuts from Tanzania were diagnosed to have been highly contaminated with afflatoxins against a global standard, which is 20 parts per billion (ppb), according to World Health Organization (WHO)

Daniphodi Millanzi, a groundnuts grower in Mnanje village in Nanyumbu district, said afflotoxins management in groundnuts starts at the farm by soaking quality seeds on time and selection of improved seeds which are resistant to mold.

He said harvesting matured groundnuts on time, uprooting crops instead of digging with the hand hoe to avoid injuring nuts and removing of soil attached to the crop before drying are crucial to avoid afflotoxins.

“When drying we make sure groundnut shells face sunshine and do not come into contact with the soil…even during storage,” he said.

He said they should also be put in bags which keeps air from penetration to avoid moisture.

Agricultural Non State Actor Forum (ANSAF) says afflatoxins are both a health and an economic barrier to human beings, hence strong and immediate initiatives should be taken to control them.

“The marketing point is where ANSAF chips in, not only in groundnuts but also in other crops affected by afflatoxins. Currently we are barred from exporting groundnuts to the global market due to the high afflatoxins contamination rate,” says Mbarwa Kivuyo, head of information and communication.

He adds, “We plan to distribute afflatoxin tester kits to ward extension officers to enable farmers examine for themselves how far they have gone on controlling afflatoxins, as we are investing in an awareness campaign.”