Textile to curb aflatoxin in maize, groundnuts

THE A to Z Textile Mills plans to construct a 3.5bn/- factory that will be producing Aflasafe to combat aflatoxin in maize and groundnuts. The company has reached this stage after signing an agreement with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which conducted research on how to deal with aflatoxin that affect grains and other crops in the country.

Speaking before signing the Technology Transfer and Licencing Agreement, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of A to Z Textile Mills Ltd, Mr Kalpesh Shah said they were particularly proud of being part of committed team that had researched for years to fight against aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts in Tanzania. He said the negative effects of aflatoxin ranged from health, loss of trade and reduced agricultural productivity and made this fight a worthy cause.

“A to Z Textile Mills will invest about 3.5bn/- in the Aflasafe project, a product expected to be in the market by the end of this year. Testing of aflatoxin is a key component of its control and the company through its Research and Development (R&D) facility, Africa Technical Research Centre (ATRC), will produce modern aflatoxin lab equipment for product testing and for quality control during and after manufacturing.

Those processes are expected to be complete for the product launch later in the year,” he said. He noted that A to Z had passionately participated in public health for many years through the long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) manufacturing significantly reducing the malaria mortality rate in sub-Saharan Africa. In the last four years, the company introduced a range of agricultural products aimed at not only making farming profitable for smallholder farmers, but also improve food safety and security as well.

The A to Z hermetic bags have revolutionised the way post-harvest management on grains and pulses is practised leading to increased income, food safety and security as well as the invaluable benefits that come with improved hermetic storage.

“We recognise and commend the government for post-harvest interventions in the grain sector and in particular the aflatoxin prevention intervention that has been put in place through the Tanzania Initiative for Preventing Aflatoxin Contamination (Tanipac), a project whose objective just like Aflasafe, is to ensure aflatoxin contained in maize and groundnuts is at acceptable levels.

“We, therefore, hope to work together with many other stakeholders to ensure the real impact of Aflasafe is felt at farm level through awareness creation and efficient distribution networks. We further thank the government of Tanzania in particular Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) for support and an enabling environment for the project,” he said.

Ms Jane Kamau, Strategical and Kilimobiashara Officer at IITA said among the risks associated with the consumption of aflatoxin contaminated maize and groundnuts were weakened immunity, child stunting and malnutrition, liver cancer and death. She said various studies indicated between a quarter and nearly half (25-45 per cent) of Tanzania’s maize was aflatoxin contaminated.

Groundnuts too are on average highly contaminated. In 2006, the unfortunate aflatoxin-related deaths in Dodoma called attention to the hidden impact of aflatoxin on consumers, tragically, 19 people lost their lives and 68 were hospitalised. IITA Partnership for Delivery Deputy Director General, Dr Kenton Dashiell, said the good news in Tanzania was part of a wider Pan-African effort by IITA and partners.

He said in 2013, IITA took an unusual bold and decisive step, creating a business incubation platform (BIP). BIP is a special purpose vehicle to accelerate the uptake of innovation by proactively forging and strengthening working (as opposed to paper) partnerships with the private sector. “Thus, serve as a functional bridged between IITA and the private sector in a mutually beneficial manner. IITA needs its technologies to reach farmers.

It exists to serve and the private sector welcomes a market ready post-R&D product where IITA has already invested in product development and statutory registration. “BIP translates relevant findings from research into a commercially viable product to serve as a better mechanism for technology transfer from advance agricultural research to the private sector,” clarified Dr Dashiell.

Mr Julius Nyabisha, A to Z Marketing Manager for Agricultural Production, said with the government having paved and eased the way in terms of statutory and regulatory requirements was another critical for the next stage, commercialisation. “IITA clearly acknowledges the unique expertise and role of the private sector in expanding production and broadening the distribution of Aflasafe to efficiently and rapidly reach farmers in all corners of Tanzania.

This means that while the TTLA grants A to Z five years exclusivity, it is conditional on A to Z meeting firm annual targets and requires sustained effective product distribution to farmers. “We are confident that we will meet the target. In fact, Aflasafe will benefit from A to Z’s extensive distribution network for our agricultural product. Our network comprises more than 200 agro-dealers throughout the country,” observed Mr Nyabicha.

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