Consultative meeting on food Safety regulatory issues in Ethiopia: highlighting the adverse impact of Afflatoxin contamination

Contributed by Selome Kebede, BENEFIT Senor Communication Officer

Ethio-Neterlands Trade for Agriculture Growth (ENTAG) held a half-day consultative meeting on food safety.  The meeting was organized to especially highlight the challenges of afflatoxin in Ethiopia so as to take regulatory and systematic measures in addressing the problem.  It was attended by over 25 participants representing government offices, the private sector (processors and exports) and development partners.

The meeting was opened by H.E. Dr. Eyasu Abraha, State Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources (MoALR), who highlighted aflatoxin is an issue that needs immediate attention and appreciated ENTAG for organizing the meeting to support the various government efforts happening at different levels.  He stressed that once the export door is closed it is very challenging to rebuild trust and reopen it. Therefore, a better understanding of the situation is needed to develop strategies and guidelines and put good accountable mechanisms to address the issue on the ground.

In his opening remark Frerik Kampman, Aid and Trade Officer from the Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands, also emphasized aflatoxin is a big barrier for trade, and it is important to find systematic measures to resolve the problem. He noted that food safety is increasing becoming an important topic throughout the world, and we should look at the issue not only as a barrier but an opportunity to expand our export market.

During the meeting food safety findings of a study commissioned by ENTAG and conducted by Bahir Dar University was shared.  The presentation covered key findings along the five pillars – national food control system, food laws and regulations, food inspection and certification, monitoring and surveillance, and information, education and communication (IEC) and training.

That was followed by presentations from ACOS plc (red kidney) and Fasica Spices plc (paper) who shared their experiences in export rejection due to high level of aflatoxin in their products.  They noted that costs associated with rejects including demurrage, customs, sea freight, storage, testing etc. can break a business in just one reject.  Other related issues included that there is no provision on how to deal with this kind of issues, lack of awareness, capacity at all levels (especially at the farmers level), lack of infrastructure and post-harvest technologies in the country, absence of accredited testing sites accepted by both sellers and buyers, challenge in motivating farmer to consider food safety, lack of standard on max allowed etc.

Next, the participants were divided to list key strategies  / activities for each of the 5 pillars, who should lead the harmonization of these activities around food safety in general and aflatoxin in particular to bring the issue to higher level attention, and who should be part of a potential task force and who should lead it.

At the end, there was an agreement to build a task force led by MoALR to translate/ summarize the suggested strategies from the group work (3-4 pagers) to submit to MoALR for action by July 18, 2018. Members in the task force include representatives from FMHACA, the private sector, Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Health and MoALR (to be assigned by Dr. Eyasu). ENTAG will play the facilitation role.

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