Abstract

Globalization, including new international trade standards and regulations, has placed significant constraints on competitiveness in and access to international markets for developing countries, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural commodities from these regions must overcome problems ranging from lower productivity and product quality to higher per unit transportation costs, and lower capacity to manage product flow from suppliers to end-users (value chain management). The competitiveness of African commodities also is impeded by poor policy and institutional environments that result in high transaction costs. One factor reducing African agricultural commodity competitiveness for export is aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxin lowers product quality and discounts export values, which may lead to significant economic losses for the countries and the agents in commodity value chains. Losses from rejected export shipments and lower prices due to poor quality may exceed 100% if the product is destroyed and the exporter is paying for the shipping. Negative impacts on human health and household include mortality, loss of productivity and reduced income due to lower productive capacity, and related health costs. In this context, the cost of complying with food safety and agricultural health standards has been a major source of concern in the international development community and for African economies, but without increased food quality, neither competitiveness nor more revenue from exports will result. We address the problem of access of African commodities to international markets by recommending an increase in public awareness of the costs and ill effects incurred due to mycotoxins, and the diffusion of aflatoxin control technology and related capacity building to improve food quality in Sub-Saharan Africa. We also recommend strengthening the capacity for conducting impact assessments and collecting the data needed to make optimal decisions amongst possible aflatoxin control measures.

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