Effects of Practices of Maize Farmers and Traders in Ghana on Contamination of Maize by Aflatoxins: Case Study of Ejura-Sekyeredumase Municipality

Author(s):  Akowuah JO, Mensah LD, Chan C, Roskilly A

Publication date: 8 June 2015

Publication type: Journal Article

Journal: African Journal of Microbiology Research


Contamination of maize by aflatoxins is of major concern to governments and the international community because high degrees of aflatoxin in food render the food unsafe for human consumption. The disposal of such foods also constitutes an economic loss in food production. This paper reports the findings of a study conducted during the 2013 minor maize farming season in Ejura-Sekyeredumase Municipality in the Ashanti region, and in  Agbobloshie market  in the Greater  Accra  Region of  Ghana. The study  was to  investigate management practices employed at the market level and on farms by maize traders and smallholder farmers, respectively, and their impact on aflatoxin contamination. Purposive sampling was used to select 150 farmers from maize farming communities across 10 cluster zones based on geographical location of farms within the municipality. Maize  traders were also selected  from a  market close  to maize  farms and a  market close to consumers for the study.  In all, 30 traders were randomly selected from each market. Maize samples were collected from both markets and selected farms to determine the presence and level of aflatoxins using the Vicam Aflatest immunoaffinity column method. The study revealed that, farmers and traders adopt practices that  expose  maize grains  to  aflatoxin  contamination. These  include:  use of  farmer-saved seed  stock  as planting material; delayed harvesting, heaping harvested maize cobs on the field; planting by broadcasting method, use of hand dipping and teeth cracking method to determine dryness of maize, use of wooden stalls with  no  proper  ventilation  for  maize  storage at  market  centres  and  temporal storage  in  the  open  using tarpaulin resulting in heat build-up and moisture re-absorption. Types of aflatoxin determined from sampled maize  grains were  G2,  G1, B2  and  B1. Grains  from  the farms  showed  below  detection limit  at  1 ppb  of aflatoxins. However total  values of  50.234, 70.102  and 30.943 ng/g were,  respectively obtained from  three composite samples  taken from  Ejura market.  A similar  occurrence was  observed at  Agbobloshie market, where higher levels of 677.480, 101.748  and 4831.942 ng/g were detected in composite samples analysed. All respondents had no knowledge of aflatoxin contamination and it causes. Moreover, 63% of traders from both markets believed that, consuming contaminated maize have no health implications for consumers as  food products  from  maize  are  normally  cooked  before  consumption.  In  conclusion,  the  study  reveals  that, practices of farmers and traders has direct effect on maize quality. It was noted that, aflatoxin contamination of  maize  is  likely to  increase  from  the  farm  through  markets  and  ultimately  compromise  the  health  of consumers. Farmers and traders need to be encouraged to  adopt best  practices in maize  production and marketing to ensure food safety of  the final consumer. Education on  aflatoxin and its health implications must also be given the necessary attention. 

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