By Franklin Alli
“ONE of the challenges that we have with grains especially, is Aflatoxin contaminations. Between 2017 and 2018, in more than 90 communities, Nestle partnered with USAID and CNFA to train more than 24,000 soya beans and maize farmers -22 percent of them women- to reduce aflatoxin and other contaminants.
This resulted in factory gate rejection decreasing for maize from 15 percent to 4 percent in one year.”
Mrs. Victoria Uwadoka, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Nestle Nigeria Plc, gave this insight into the challenges food and beverage manufacturers in the country are having in sourcing local inputs for their production and packaging need.
At a media parley, yesterday, she lamented that, aside aflatoxin contaminants in crops, “Another challenge we are having is road infrastructure; it takes us longer times to get our raw materials from across the country to our factories and the finished products to our warehouses.”
She, however , affirmed that Nestlé is committed to the local sourcing of raw materials for its production.
“We have been doing this for the past 7 years, reaching about 80% local sourcing of raw and packaging materials so far. The 5 major locally sourced products and average tonnage (average volume per item) are listed below: Corn: 10,000, Sorghum: 6,500, Soya Beans: 5,000, Cassava Starch: 4,000 and Cocoa: 5,000.”
“Thanks to the investment we have made towards increasing local sourcing since 2011; currently, Nigerian farmers’ supply 100 percent of the grains and legumes used in Golden Morn, the malt in Milo is made from sorghum supplied by smallholder farmers who cultivate the grain. Other products sourced locally include palm oil and millet,” she said.
*Victoria Uwadoka, Nestle’s CCPA Manager
Tackling the problem
Fielding questions on how the company is tackling the problem, she said:
“One way we are addressing these challenges is training of our partner farmers to help them improve their farming methods reduce losses and keep their land healthy and sustainable.
“And the training we provide is not just for farmers, we provide training across the entire value chain – those who supply the seed, chemicals, those who are warehousing and those who are transporting,” she said.
Researchers get grants to find solution to aflatoxin
In a related development, researchers from three universities in Africa have secured funds from African Union Research Grants Programme to conduct studies on how to fight aflatoxin in maize, manage diseases in fish and improve the breed of ingenious chicken.
The universities — Makerere in Uganda, University of Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique and the University of Zambia—are leading the project.
Prof Ekwamu Adipala, executive director of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture,noted that aflatoxin, which is a key problem the research will address, has contributed to reduction in the market value of Africa’s food stuff.
Aflatoxins are highly toxic and found in grains such as maize, ground nuts, sorghum and wheat.
Exposure to them can lead to stunting and immune system suppression.
“There is a knowledge gap in developing countries due to inadequate resources and insufficient capacity for aflatoxin analyses. Therefore, we want to determine the prevalence of aflatoxin in maize and value chain in East and Southern Africa,” said Dr Alice Mweetwa, from the University of Zambia and principal researcher of the project.
Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that Africa loses about $700 million annually because most agricultural commodities such as maize and ground nuts are contaminated with aflatoxins, and therefore don’t access markets in Europe and America.
“We hope to come up with measures to mitigate the impact of aflatoxin contamination, which countries on the continent can then adopt,” noted Dr Mweetwa