Millers are rejecting thousands of bags of Ugandan maize for failing to meet the maximum limit on aflatoxin, raising questions about its clearance at the border by the standards agency.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards is required to check for compliance at the border by sampling the produce to ensure importers have the necessary documents on conformity to ascertain its compliance with the set standard before it is allowed in the country.

In February this year, experts in Uganda’s National Crops Resources Institute said the local (Ugandan) maize poses a greater risk of cancer because of the high level of aflatoxin contamination, which is 100 times higher than what is recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Millers have been rejecting the consignments from Uganda because of unacceptable levels of aflatoxin that are way beyond Kenyan standards of 10 parts per billion.

The rejected maize is finding its way to posho mills at the open-air markets where it is sold to unsuspecting consumers, exposing them to health risks.

Trucks queuing to pick maize at NCPB depot. Photo (courtesy).
Trucks queuing to pick maize at NCPB depot. All Photos (courtesy).

Posho mills and other small-scale millers do not have the ability to test aflatoxin in maize owing to the high cost of testing as one sample may cost as high as Sh5,000.

Ken Nyagah, chairman of the United Grain Millers Association said they are rejecting at least six trucks out of 10 that bring maize at their premises.

“Aflatoxin is becoming a serious problem and a lot of maize that we are getting from Uganda exceeds the required limits,” said Mr Nyagah.

He said the consignment delivered from Uganda has been recording high levels of over 20 parts per billion, making it unsuitable for human consumption.

Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) on Thursday issued strict guidelines to exporters over high levels of aflatoxin in maize that they are exporting, which the agency said risks trade between Kampala and its neighbours.

“We came up with these guidelines … to improve our international relations with our neighbouring countries, and ensure trade facilitation or meet requirements of another country,” Gaston Kironde, UNBS official is quoted by a local media in Uganda.

Kebs board of management held a meeting with millers last week and they (board) were taken to task on why they are unable to arrest substandard maize at the border, only for the agency to recall their products for failing to meet aflatoxin tests.

Capwel Industries too says they have witnessed high cases of aflatoxin from Ugandan maize forcing them to reject grain being delivered at the factory.

“We have been rejecting a lot of maize coming in from Uganda because of the high levels of aflatoxin,” said Rajan Shah, chief executive officer of Capwel Industries.

Kebs did not respond to our inquiries despite acknowledging the receipt of questions sent to them a week ago.

Uganda has also had issues with South Sudan, with Juba rejecting at least 90 trucks with the produce at the border point due to high levels of aflatoxin between May and June.

Kenya had in 2021 banned maize imports from Kenya due to high levels of aflatoxin, however, the moratorium was lifted but Nairobi issued strict conditions that traders bringing in the produce had to adhere to.

Traders importing maize from Uganda to Kenya were supposed to have a certificate of origin from the exporting countries before they got clearance at the border points.

The government also directed traders to have a certificate of conformity indicating that the aflatoxin levels comply with the maximum required levels of 10 parts per billion, the standards Kenya adheres to.

Consuming food that is contaminated with aflatoxin exposes children to stunted growth with some scientists arguing that it can be linked to the cancer of the liver.