In 2008, we implemented a three-year sustainable agriculture strategy to target specific priorities across Africa, designed to ensure a steady supply of raw materials. One of these priorities is reducing the high mycotoxin levels in cereals (59%) and dried fruits and edible nuts (47%) from Central and West Africa, where up to 30% of cereal crops are lost to this natural, fungus-based contamination.
Cereal grains and legumes (beans, peas, etc) are important to our business, and particularly for our fast-growing breakfast cereals business in the region, where consumer demand for affordable brands like Golden Morn, Cerelac and Cerevita is strong. We have therefore launched a project to reduce mycotoxin contamination levels in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria by 60%.
We plan to achieve this through a combination of accurate data gathering; toxin-reduction strategies, developed in co-operation with national extension partners; greater dialogue among stakeholders through electronic media and a newsletter; and management and capacity-building training, which will give 3000 rural farmers in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria a higher price for contaminant-free produce.
Food companies, retailers and wholesalers will become more aware of the health implications of mycotoxin-contaminated grains and legumes, while an estimated 150 million people in the three countries currently exposed to aflatoxin (a type of mycotoxin) will have access to a healthier diet.
The scheme is being rolled out to Zimbabwe, Kenya and other countries with known mycotoxin problems.