TANZANIA – Tanzania has launched a new project through an investment worth US$34.11 million (TShs80 billion) that seeks to control Aflatoxin, reports Daily News.

Speaking during the launch of the project dubbed as ‘Tanzania Initiative for Preventing Aflatoxin Contamination’ (TANIPAC), Agriculture Minister, Mr Japhet Hasunga, noted that the five-year project would also address food safety challenges.

“The main goal of the project is to improve food safety in order to attain food and nutrition security, hence to improve the health of the community as well as agricultural productivity,” he said.

He further said that TANIPAC would participate in the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) phase II which was launched in June last year, to improving profitability in the agricultural sector.

“TANIPAC will improve profitability as well as value of the crops. The aspects include safety of food which is sold to consumers within and outside the country,” observed the minister.

Additionally, he cited the objectives of the project as to improve pre and post-harvest infrastructure, technology and management as well as to improve public awareness on Aflatoxins.

Mr Hasunga said that this is part of the government’s efforts to boost the agricultural sector which employs over 65% of the workforce in the country and contributes 65% of industrial raw materials in the country.

“The agricultural sector contributes 85% of exports that generate foreign currency for our country,” he observed.

He explained that while the problem of aflatoxin on maize stood at between 25 and 43% in Morogoro, 34% in Tabora and 40% in Geita, the problem on groundnuts stood at between 18 and 20% in Mtwara and 18% in Manyara.

The Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, Engineer Mathew Mtigumwe, pointed out that the project would be undertaken in ten regions, focused on growing maize and groundnuts on the Mainland and Zanzibar where evidence indicates a high likelihood of occurrence.

Eng Mtigumwe said the project targets key stakeholders in the maize and groundnut value chains and is set to directly benefit about 60,000 farmers, 120 extension and technical staff and the overall population in general.

Aflatoxins are poisonous and carcinogenic compounds produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts among other food staples.

The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions or in poorly stored food.

In 2016, an Aflatoxicosis, food poisoning resulting from intake of aflatoxin infected food, outbreak was reported in the country which affected 65 people in Dodoma and Manyara resulting to 19 deaths.