With aflatoxin, a cancer-causing substance, contaminating grains and posing a serious concern for food safety and trade, Kenya has received two state-of-the-art decontamination plants to deal with the issue.

The facilities worth CA$ 1.6 million (approximately Ksh190 million) were handed over to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots in Bungoma and Nairobi by the Canadian Government through TradeMark Africa (TMA).

The introduction of these decontamination units in Kenya, a first in commercial use in Africa, is significant as they can eliminate up to 98% of aflatoxins in food commodities like grains, pulses, and nuts.

The selection of Western Kenya for the decontaminators is strategic, considering its role as the country’s grain basket and a key player in regional grain trade, with substantial grain inflows from Uganda (over 600,000 metric tons annually) and Tanzania (about 400,000 metric tons annually).

The deployment of these units is expected to ensure that only grains meeting acceptable aflatoxin limits are traded, which is vital for public health and safe trade practices.

Decontamination plant in Bungoma
photo credits: TradeMark Africa

At the hand-over ceremony in Bungoma, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) Executive Director, Marcia Colquhoun, highlighted the plant’s role in facilitating the trade of essential grains and supporting food security, saying, “The aflatoxin decontamination plants are expected to facilitate trade in grains such as maize, sorghum, rice, oilseeds, spices, and groundnuts thus supporting the overall goals of food security and trade facilitation in this region, particularly for small-scale and women cross border traders.”

On his part, TMA CEO, David Beer noted that the decontamination facilities are a game changer as it is now possible to reduce aflatoxin contamination in grains post-harvest, thus reducing the amount that will be rejected at the border.

“This will benefit both small-scale farmers and traders on the one hand, and consumers such as schools, humanitarian agencies and businesses on the other. This is part of TradeMark Africa’s commitment to reduce trade barriers at borders,” Beer said.

Calling for collaboration, Principal Secretary, State Department for Agriculture, Dr Paul Ronoh said: “If we are to tackle food security and food safety issues not just in Kenya but across East Africa, there is no denying that partnerships such as the one we are witnessing here today, are of utmost necessity in availing modern solutions like the grain aflatoxin decontamination facilities.”

The funding for this project is part of a larger CA$3 million (about Ksh 350 million) package from Canada. The remaining funds are allocated for training and creating more awareness on aflatoxins to regulatory agencies, farmers and traders in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda on managing aflatoxins in grain supplies.