Malawi is annually losing K64 billion in exports due to Aflatoxin contaminated groundnuts and maize, a development that the United States government has described as unacceptable for a country that want to move from a net importer to exporter.
Aflatoxins are naturally occurring toxic compounds produced by fungi which affect crops growing in the field or during post harvest handling and storage.
US deputy chief of mission Andrew Herrup said this on Wednesday during the handover of the Aflatoxin Testing Laboratory and two Malawi-specific biocontrol products called Aflasafe to the government of Malawi.
Said Herrup: “It is unacceptable that Malawi is losing out in such a way. Malawi has such an opportunity to export crops such as groundnuts and maize that grows so well on Malawian soil. For a country that is so dependent on agriculture for its economy and for exports to lose out on a product that could go around the world and increase total export earnings by 10 percent is unacceptable.
“We know that the Malawian government and the Malawian people feel the same way and should take up the opportunities that are there on the global market”.
After developing Aflasafe, Herrup hoped that the private sector and the government will see to it that farmers sell better and safer groundnuts and maize for export.
He challenged the government to champion the scaling up of the two products Aflasafe MW-MZ01 and Aflasafe 02 to ensure elimination of Aflatoxins at all levels.
Controller of agriculture services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Alexander Bulirani admitted that Malawi has been losing out on export markets over the years due to Aflatoxin.
He expressed optimism that the coming in of the laboratory and the two Aflatoxin management products marks the rebirth of the potential for groundnuts production and exporting.
“Most of our groundnuts was being exported to the US and United Kingdom and other European countries in the 1980’s but the market crashed due to aflatoxins. These are the markets which can pay a prime price to reward farmers accordingly. We had lost markets for groundnuts because we were comfortable with the tobacco earnings,” said Bulirani.
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture regional director David Chikoye, whose institution is supporting the developments, said from soil studies across the country, the aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts is severe which is a health and trade serious case.