As infection stunts 4 million children
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
An agro-chemical giant, HarvestField Industries Limited, Wednesday, disclosed that millions of liver cancer cases are traced to consumption of aflatoxin infected foods.
This was made known by the Managing Director, HarvestField Industries, Martins Awofisayo, at a one-day workshop on ‘Scaling Solutions to Control Aflatoxin in Nigeria’s Crop Value Chain-Test Results under the CBN-ABP 2020 Wet Season Project’held in Abuja.
Speaking on the health and economic implications of the deadly disease that is found on maize, groundnuts and others, Awofisayo said his company has found a solution to the menace of aflatoxin which is called Aflasafe.
Aflatoxins are poisonous chemicals produced by Aspergillus flavus and A.parasiticus (molds). The molds reside in the soil and dead, decaying organic matter and from there reach the crops. Animal feeds, Maize, Groundnut, Sorghum, Cassava, Pepper and Cotton Seeds are susceptible and can be infected both at pre-and post harvest.
Effects of aflatoxin in humans, animal health and agro-produce trade include liver diseases, including cancer; causes stunting and growth retardation in children; suppresses the immune system; causes abnormal swelling of stomach; depending on the dose, it can cause death; and effect on trade through produce rejection.
He said: “I can see that the issue of aflatoxin is already settled by the people and gathering that we have here today.
“A solution has been found to control and mitigate aflatoxin in our food, crop value chain but there is nothing we are doing about it.
“Millions of people have been traced to the consumption of aflatoxin infected foods to having liver cancer.
“4 million children are suffering from stunted growth, and these are the issues and why we are gathered here today shows we are serious about it, and now is a great opportunity for us to do a road-map after today.
“Aflatoxin is a challenge we have taken on ourselves, and we have seen the gap and we want to fill it. Our farmers are suffering form the economic angle, they will borrow money to farm and they will not have money to sell, and our children are also suffering, and anywhere we go you mention aflatoxin people shiver.
“On Aflasafe, it is a cost-effective bio-control product that reduces crop aflatoxin content from field to storage. It contains four non-toxin producing (atoxigenic) strains of Aspergillus flavus native to Nigeria. The four useful strains are coated on roasted sorghum grains as Aflasafe. Blue dye distinguishes Aflasafe from regular sorghum.
“Some of the benefits of Aflasafe include displacement of toxigenic Aspergillus species; allows producing aflatoxin-safe crops; improved family health; improved livestock productivity; better trading opportunities; access to premium, aflatoxin-conscious markets; guarantees zero-reject of Nigeria’s agro-commodity exports; and guarantees food safety.
“The applicaton procedure goes like this; it is broadcasted at a rate of 10 kg/ha in maize and groundnut; in maize, it is applied 2-3 weeks before flowering; groundnut fields are treated 30-45 days after planting; sporulation occurs within 2-5 days after application, and for up to 30 days; atoxingenic strains multiply and displaces the toxigenic strains; full manual on the application is also available in English, Yourba, and Hausa at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Headquarters, 36 States’ Greenhouses and Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Greenhouse.”
According to him in Rwanda, they have declared no farmer can cultivate any maize whether as a smallholder farmer or big farmer without the use of aflasafe and it is a criminal offence.
He posited, “How are we going to do that in Nigeria? We have the wherewithal to do that”, he stated.
He further stated that “We have built the largest agro-chemical manufacturing plant in Nigeria and largest in Africa in terms of capacity, size and was built on a eight hectares of land, fully developed and no one factory like this in Africa, and kudos to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, they supported us through the cash loan and this is what we have now, and we are almost paying off the cash loan.
“And in this factory, we produce over 41 million liters on a single shift so if we can double our shift to two then we can do about 82 million litters per annum, and we have been the ones supporting the Anchor Borrowers now, we are producing for the anchor borrower programme in cassava, maize, groundnut and others.
“This is the experience we brought to bear in the handling of aflasafe. We have passion and that is to make HarvestField any agric input our farmers may need. Right from the bottles in agro-chemical we produce in Nigeria, and 70 per cent of our raw materials are sourced locally and increased the value chain.
“We have spent $5 million on the largest agro-chemical factory in Africa and yet we do not have the enabling environment compared to other countries.”