Rwanda makes its mandatory for grain handlers to set-up aflatoxin testing facilities

RWANDA – The government of Rwanda through the Rwanda Inspectorate Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA), has called for urgent investment in the establishment of proper aflatoxin texting facilities in the country.

RICA has directed all warehouse operators, wholesalers, as well as factories dealing in legumes, cereals, cassava, livestock feed, to set up the laboratories by the end of May this year.

The organization requires dealers in agriculture products to effectively use the facilities to test for aflatoxin, a naturally occurring toxic substances, prior to accepting, storing or even processing these agriculture supplies.

The move follows high prevalence of these harmful toxins in some traded agricultural commodities.

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“RICA informs all warehouse operators, wholesalers, producers, processors, and importers of legumes, cereals, cassava, livestock products, animal feed, that it is prohibited to receive, store, process or import the mentioned commodities for sale/trade if the owner does not have aflatoxin testing facilities,” said Beatrice Uwumukiza, the Acting Director-General of RICA.

So far, only major firms in the country such as Africa Improved Foods (AIF) and MINIMEX which process maize, test aflatoxin levels in commodities.

According to reports by New Times Rwanda, most traders of foods prone to aflatoxin contamination, do not have access to the testing and detecting technologies, creating gap in food safety regulation, which can lead to consumption of contaminated foods.

“RICA informs all warehouse operators, wholesalers, producers, processors, and importers of legumes, cereals, cassava, livestock products, animal feed, that it is prohibited to receive, store, process or import the mentioned commodities for sale/trade if the owner does not have aflatoxin testing facilities.”

Beatrice Uwumukiza – Acting Director-General of RICA

The prevalence of aflatoxins is increasingly becoming a major concern not only in Rwanda but also within the East African Community.

For instance, in February 2021, Kenya suspended maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania over what it described as high levels of aflatoxins that are beyond safety limits, saying that they were not fit for human consumption.

According to Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), Africa loses an estimated US$670 million in rejected export trade annually due to contamination by the poisonous chemical.

In a bid to curb the menace, industry players such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) have signed an agreement to work together to tackle aflatoxin contamination of grains in the region.

The MoU leverages each organization’s comparative advantage to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in the areas of advocacy, research, capacity development, and awareness creation.

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In addition, the partnership will promote best practices and use of proven technologies to ensure the grains produced are safe for human and livestock consumption and meet export standards.

One of the technologies to be utilized under the initiative is promoting the use of Aflasafe, an innovative, safe and natural product that drastically reduces aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts as part of an integrated aflatoxin management strategy.

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