Nestle Plc is partnering with USAID in a Maize Quality Improvement Partnership (M-QIP) project to enhance quality, safety and transparency in the grain supply chain, as well as, improve agricultural practices of smallholder farmers and farmers associations.
Prof Damian Chikwendu, the Team Leader, Feed the Future and Nestle M-QIP, speaking at a stakeholder’s forum in Zaria, said prevention of mycotoxins contamination was essential for safety in the food industry, as well as regulations on food and feed to control the mycotoxins.
According to experts, mycotoxins are damaging toxins produced by fungi, which attack grains, especially maize and soya beans. They can cause serious health issues for consumers such as increasing the risk of cancer, immune system suppression and stunted skeletal growth, especially in infants. Mycotoxins also cause huge economic losses for the food industry.
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) stated that mycotoxins affect nearly 25% of crops annually, causing massive agricultural products and industrial losses.
FAO said food losses due to mycotoxin contamination constitute an enormous threat to food security in Africa where the magnitude of losses is difficult to estimate due to lack of information. Nigeria, given the large maize production in the country, is not exempted.
Meanwhile, grains, such as maize and soya beans, are crucial to food security in most parts of Nigeria. They are a major source of income for farmers in the northern part of the country and play a significant role in the livelihood of these farmers. About 70% of the total maize production in Nigeria comes from low-income farmers. Production, however, is affected by various constraints, including poor post-harvest management which causes contamination in the process bringing destruction to the grains.
However, the goal of the M-QIP project is to increase sales of maize and soya beans and to improve the health of rural communities through the consumption of safe products. The project’s area of concentration is Kaduna because the state is a major producer of maize and soya beans.