By Yaw Ansah, GNA
Accra, July 5, GNA - Dr Rose Omari, Project Coordinator of the National Policy and Technical Regulation for Aflatoxin says there were processes if adhered to by actors in crop production could control high levels of aflatoxins in food.
She stated that aflatoxin contamination could occur both at pre and post-harvest stages of crops production, hence the need for the recommended process to be complied with throughout all levels.
Aflatoxins are poisonous carcinogens that are produced by certain molds, which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains.
Dr Omari gave the assurance when she shared a recent situational analysis report at a two-day workshop on Research Dissemination and Agenda Setting for National Policy for Aflatoxin control in food and feed.
The forum, which gathered actors in the agriculture value chain including farmers, aggregators, processors, development partners, scientists and researches, was used to share findings of a situational analysis and discuss issues of policy relevance.
It forms part of an Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa Funded project to develop a national policy and technical regulation for aflatoxin control in food being coordinated by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Dr Omari said good agricultural practices such as crop rotation, adoption of drought and disease resistant seeds, planting of treated seeds, pesticide application and soil amendment could help control high levels of aflatoxins in food.
Other practices she enumerated included moisture management, disease and pest control, irrigation, timely application of soil nutrients, timely harvesting had proven to be effective in reducing aflatoxin contamination in crops.
Dr Omari sharing some of the post-harvest practices that could help control aflatoxin contamination, said farmer’s ability to rapidly and adequately dry after harvesting crops was one of the best approaches.
“Drying is needed to ensure that the crops have moisture content at levels that will not promote mold growth. The appropriate moisture content for maize is 12 per cent, groundnut (in-shell) nine per cent and shelled groundnut seven per cent,” she said.
“Crops dried adequately away from the field and off the ground are less susceptible to insect damage and mold growth. Sun-drying of maize and groundnuts is a common practice in Ghana and, together with the use of raised platforms, it has been shown to reduce the growth of toxigenic fungi”.
She said although, scientists had introduced a aflasafe a technology used to reduce aflatoxin contamination by over 90 per cent, several factors including late application and heavy rain shortly after inoculation was spread could reduce its efficacy.
Dr Omari advised farmers to take such practices serious because it had an implication on economic losses and trade effect due to contamination.
“Economic losses occur when aflatoxin-contaminated products are rejected by importing countries or when badly damaged and contaminated products are discarded”.
Using groundnuts as an instance, she said the quantity of groundnut paste exported from Ghana increased from 95kg in 2001 to 130,297kg in 2013 with a corresponding value of $60,779 and $303,288 respectively.
However, Dr Omari said the surge saw some fluctuations due to high levels of aflatoxin, which led to some rejected products.