The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism says Malawi is losing about K64.1 billion ($86 million) annually due to the presence of aflatoxins in groundnuts.
Quoting a report commissioned by the programme for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (Paca) of the African Union (AU), the ministry’s principal secretary Ken Ndala said the loss is a very huge sum of money which could have significantly improved the country’s trade balance and sustained the lives of many Malawians.
European countries shun Malawi’s groundnuts because of the aflatoxins and this has led to the country exporting to east African markets.
The report was compiled by Malawian consultants Limbikani Matumba and Fredrick Msiska.
Said Ndala: “Aflatoxin contamination is a huge challenge in Malawi. We all know that aflatoxin is causing all sorts of health hazards, including liver cancers, suppression of the immune system, stunted growth and death, in severe cases.
“Aflatoxins are also responsible for our inability to export groundnuts and our eventual loss of our position as once a leading exporter of groundnuts. The recent report from Paca estimates that Malawi loses $86 million in potential exports of groundnuts only. This is a huge sum of money which, if realised, could change the lives of many Malawians.”
He said for a long time aflatoxins have been considered as mainly a trade issue because of the groundnuts exports.
Ndala said the ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development; Health; and Industry, Trade and Tourism are implementing several interventions aimed at capacity building of the country’s laboratories, awareness creation, data generation through Africaims and mainstreaming aflatoxins in the national agriculture investment programme.
In his contribution, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said the battle against aflatoxins should not be fought by government alone but also by the private sector because the benefits from exported groundnuts will go to all Malawians.
Director of research, policy and partnerships at Famers Union of Malawi (FUM), Candida Nankhumwa, agreed with Kapito that Malawi needs to decisively deal with the aflatoxin problem because that is the only way the country can export its groundnuts to the European markets.
Consultant Msiska, who works for an organisation known as Olesa, in his presentation, said there is a need to mainstream issues of aflatoxins into the existing aflatoxins programmes as well as identify funding gaps.