Health News of Monday, 19 May 2014

Source: Public Agenda

Mechanical dryers reduce Aflatoxins in maize

The mechanical drying of maize is reducing the incidence of Aflatoxins which cause cancer and other ailments when food prepared with affected maize is eaten.

With the introduction of the ‘Brock SuperB’ continuous flow dryer in maize-growing Wenchi in the Brong Ahafo Region and its surrounding areas, quality maize is being produced as the presence of Aflatoxins in the national staple is minimised. The ‘Brock SuperB’ dryer dries maize and remove all foreign materials and waste from the cereal.

Sahel Grains, a company operating in Wenchi and its environs, introduced the ‘Brock SuperB’ dryer and buy maize from farmers, and dry it to resell. Thereby improving the quality of the maize and adding value to the cereal for the farmers to improve their incomes.

Since Aflatoxins thrive well in moist maize, it is virtually impossible for the maize that goes through the dryer to contain Aflatoxins. The dryer is improving the income of the farmers since they avoid middlemen who buy the maize at lower prices because of the waste and moist in the crop.

The use of the mass dryer was made possible through a collaboration between the farmers and Sahel Grains, under a project dubbed: ‘The Development of Market Access and Post Harvest Services .' The project, which was started in 2012 to tackle the challenges that smallholder maize farmers face in accessing market for their produce, was undertaken by Concern Universal, an international Non-governmental Organisation, in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA).

AGRA gave a grant to Concern Universal to undertake the project.

It is widely known that maize farmers in most parts of Ghana are struggling with the Aflatoxins menace. Aflatoxins are toxic metabolites produced by certain fungi in foods and feeds. Aflatoxins-affected grains like maize, millet and soya beans have been discovered to cause diseases such as cancer and aflatoxicosis in humans, livestock and domestic animals.

The occurrence of Aflatoxins is influenced by certain environmental factors. Hence the extent of contamination varies with geographic location, agricultural and agronomic practices, and the susceptibility of crops to fungal invasion during the pre-harvest, storage and processing periods.

Aflatoxins often occur in crops in the field prior to harvest. Post-harvest contamination can occur when the drying of the crop is delayed and during storage of the crop if water is allowed to exceed critical levels for the mould to grow. In addition, insect or rodent infestations facilitate mould invasion of stored grains.

During a field trip to the location of the dryer in Wenchi by journalists, the Managing Director of Sahel Grains, Kwame Boateng, stated that the drying of the maize “is reducing the health risks” associated with maize. Boateng noted that even though there were a few dryer in other parts of the country, they were being managed by officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. According to him, when the number of dryers is increased, the fight against Aflatoxins would be successful.