Legislators have made a call for adequate sensitisation on proper post-harvest handling and management techniques to curb the toxicity burden faced by farmers.
The call was made through a motion to address challenges of mycotoxin contamination moved by Hon. Martin Ojara Mapenduzi (Indep., Bardege-Layibi Division) on Tuesday, 18 July 2023.
Mapenduzi observed that mycotoxins including aflatoxins compromise the quality of grains produced by farmers, which in turn affects Uganda’s competitiveness in the regional and global market.
“In this House, there were discussions about goods that were impounded in South Sudan when our traders went to conduct business. These goods were impounded majorly because of mycotoxin contamination,” said Mapenduzi.
A mycotoxin is a toxic secondary compounds produced by fungi and is capable of causing disease and death in both humans and other animals. The term ‘mycotoxin’ is usually reserved for the toxic chemical products produced by fungi that readily colonize crops.
He said it is important that farmers in Northern Uganda and across the country be educated to exercise good agricultural practices especially in preventing mycotoxins while harvesting crops.
Mapenduzi informed the House that Gulu University established a mycotoxin-testing laboratory with funding from VLIROUS Belgium government programme, which has tools that support surveillance of mycotoxin contamination.
“Government should provide support to Gulu University multifunctional laboratory to scale up measures to reduce the burden of mycotoxins and their associated implications,” he added.
Mapenduzi said mycotoxin contamination poses food safety concerns that have effects on humans and animals leading to diseases like liver cancer.
Hon. George Bhoka Didi (NRM, Obongi County) said creating awareness on food contamination will go a long way in ensuring food safety, and added that the Ministry of Health should weigh in on the matter.
“We need to look into our legal and regulatory framework related to drugs and food toxicity, assessment and surveillance,” Bhoka Didi added.
Hon. Anthony Aabuka (NRM, Lamwo County) attributed instances of mycotoxin contamination to poor food storage and recommended that a National Cereals and Other Produce Board will address the challenge.
“The issue of aflatoxin, grading of produce and standards can be applied in a department just like Kenya and Tanzania are doing. They have silos for storing and grading produce. We had a produce marketing board in this country but I do not see it working,” said Aabuka.
The Speaker, Anita Among directed the Committees on Agriculture and Health to review the motion and report to the House in two months.
She also emphasized the need for a national evaluation exercise by relevant stakeholders on food safety.
“We also need to review the post handling techniques used by our farmers and look at improving the existing safeguards,” Among said.
The Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze urged Parliament to support initiatives by National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in combating aflatoxins.
“NARO produced a solution called ‘Aflasafe’ to curb aflatoxins but they have suffered inadequate funding to multiply it. We shall lead NARO to explain to the committee how it will cure the problem,” said Tumwebaze.