Unripe Maize Trade Heightens Aflatoxin Crisis in Uganda

unripe maize trade heightens aflatoxin crisis in uganda
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The Grain Council of Uganda (TGCU) is raising concerns about the exacerbation of the aflatoxin issue in Uganda, attributing it to unregulated maize trading practices. TGCU Chairman Robert Mwanje emphasized the impact of high demand for maize, leading foreign buyers to purchase crops before reaching maturity.

Mwanje pointed out that this premature harvesting prevents maize from maturing fully, resulting in higher moisture content within the grain. The elevated moisture content poses challenges in removal, contributing to the degradation of the grain. To expedite the drying process, some unscrupulous individuals resort to spraying chemicals like “Ambush,” further compromising the quality of the grain that eventually reaches the borders.

During a local radio talk show addressing Uganda’s aflatoxin problem, Mwanje highlighted the TGCU’s efforts to regulate the proper harvesting and processing of grain. However, these initiatives face setbacks due to the prevalence of such practices in the unregulated maize trade.

“We’ve had what we call industrial self-regulation, we’ll try to regulate ourselves. We’ll try to say, ‘what can we do, such that whatever we process, whatever we give to people to eat, is fit for human consumption, but efforts are being undone,” Mwanje stated.

Aflatoxins, known for causing liver cancer, immune suppression, and stunting, have become a growing concern in Uganda. The contamination of sorghum, maize, and peanuts has resulted in a substantial decline in exports, valued at $7.48 million, contributing to a 45% reduction in total agricultural exports to Uganda.

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In recent years, neighboring countries like Kenya and South Sudan have rejected Ugandan grain due to concerns over aflatoxin levels exceeding World Health Organization recommendations. The unregulated trade in immature maize stands as a significant factor in this recurring agricultural crisis.

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