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July 05, 2010

IITA expert says 60% of Nigerian maize poisoned

More than 60 per cent of harvested maize in Nigeria have high level of a fungi poison called Aflatoxin, a renowned plant pathologist has said.

The plant pathologist, Dr. Ranajit Bandyopadhyay of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, said this in a press statement. He was quoted to have said in the statement that contaminated maize was prone to being rejected by feed industries.

The researcher said that investment in factory production of IITA’s product known as Aflasafe would pay off, in view of the huge demand for quality maize in the country.

According to the statement, biological control of aflatoxins, using aflasafe will rekindle hopes of a brighter future for African farmers, as the continent battles food contamination.

“The technology, which uses ‘good fungus’ to fight the ‘bad ones,’ has provided relief to hundreds of maize farmers in northern Nigeria – a region where more than 70 per cent of the population depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood,” the release said.

IITA said that in 2009, farmers who participated in field trials using aflasafe reduced contamination by about 80 per cent.

“Consequently, results from efficacy tests of the product have opened a window of opportunity for the private sector to tap into,” the statement added.

The statement quoted Bandyopadhyay as saying that with an initial investment outlay of between $1m and $3m in aflasafe manufacturing plant, investors are likely to reap about $133,000 (N20m) annually.

“This makes investment in this technology a viable option, not only for profit but also to improve the health of the people,” the researcher said.

Produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxins pose barriers to domestic and international trade of maize and peanuts in sub-Saharan Africa because of contaminated grains.

IITA warned that the contaminated grains have carcinogenic properties that endanger both humans and animals.

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