KAMPALA — The Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) an umbrella body for grain traders in East Africa has retooled agrodealers on safe grain handling to ensure acceptable standards are maintained.
The EAGC working with Makerere University during a four day training held in Kampala tipped agrodealers and fumigators from different parts of the country on Grain Standards, Grading, Quality Assurance, Grain Trading, Brokerage Services, Grain Logistics Management, Agribusiness Financial Services and pesticides use without compromising grain safety.
Speaking at the sidelines of the training, Mr. Paul Ochuna, the team leader at EAGC told reporters more than 70 percent of grains produced by smallholder farmers are being rejected by international traders because of poor quality.
He said the persistent poor quality is contributing to low prices and lack of market for important grains such as maize—explaining that the grains are majorly failing in the areas of aflatoxin content, a cancer-causing toxin, high moisture content and poor grain colour because they are dried on bare ground or dirty places.
“You find that averagely, over 70 percent of the grain that is produced by smallholder farmers is rejected because of the high level of aflatoxin [and high moisture content]. In case they are to sell, the commodity will be sold for animal feed and, therefore, it will fetch a low value,” Mr Ochuna said.
He added: “The problem of aflatoxin is really big. And this is mainly because smallholder farmers are not using the best post-harvest management practices. The most affected crops are maize, millet and sorghum.”
Ochuna said training included certified fumigators for their crucial role in post harvesting.
“This [training] will help to mitigate the different risks and dangers that come from the use of pesticides. We all know pesticides are a danger to human health and the environment which calls for the Agro-dealers who handle pesticides to have the required knowledge and skills. These should have a certification to handle these pesticides,” he said.
Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa an expert in Agricultural Entomology and Integrated Pest Management at Makerere University said the course seeks to address grey areas in misuse and poor handling of pesticides.
“This course will help teach people how to handle pesticides in a safe way without harming the end-user,” Prof Kyamanywa who initiated the course said.
Asked on alleged relationship between pesticides and increased cancer cases in the country, Kyamanywa said there’s no studies done to confirm the connection but he didn’t rule out grave effects of pesticides on the ender users.
Quoting preliminary results of the study being conducted by UNACO, Kyamanywa said there has been a direct relationship between pesticide residue intake and increased cancer, abortions and deformed babies.
“We don’t have direct results but UNACO is trying to bring out this data. They are showing that most of waters consumed by people are contaminated with pesticides which are putting them at risk.”
Mr. Paul Mwambu, the Commissioner Crop Inspection and Certification at the Ministry of Agriculture reiterated the relevance of critical actions to reduce post-harvest losses and urged Agro dealers to be good ambassadors of this appropriate interventions.
“Post-harvest losses affect quality and quantity of produce and this eventually affects access to better markets, prices, results in loss of revenue and real income for different value chain actors and reduces the country’s overall national income” he said.
“Interventions and strategies that reduce postharvest losses are highly required to ensure sustainable quality food supply and this automatically translates into enhanced food security,” said.
Mr. David Mutazindwa, the Director and the EAGC Regional Vice President said fumigation is important in ensuring quality but it deals with using dangerous chemicals in form of pesticides and these can be harmful if not controlled.
He said only 20% is structured in formal trade and 80% is in informal trade which makes it difficult to control what is consumed and what goes outside.
In March last year, Kenya banned the importation of maize from Uganda, claiming that it contained high levels of aflatoxins. However the ban was later lifted after discussions between the two countries.
Statistics from EAGC indicate that Uganda produces about 5.5 million metric tonnes of grains, offering exporters and local dealers sufficient supplies and yet hindered by lack of quality.
According to government statistics, grain trade brings more than $350 million (Shs1.2 trillion) annually.