Harvested groundnuts left to dry in the sun. Steady drying of groundnut pods prevents aflatoxin contamination.
Groundnuts farmers can avoid up to 50 percent postharvest losses to aflatoxin contamination by proper drying the legumes in the sun before storage.
In western region of Kenya, groundnuts are a favourite source of food and a major source of income for small-scale farmers. However, most of these farmers risk losing bigger potion of their produce aflatoxin poison which is dangerous to humans and animals.
Aflatoxins are caused by moulds in the soil. The moulds grow more when it is humid and hot. When groundnuts are harvested too late especially during the rainy season, the pods split and let in moulds. Mould spreads from the diseased pods to the healthy ones by contact when mixed.
Timothy Simiyu, farmer from Busia County who makes about Sh450,000 per hectare each season from his Red Oratia and Manipitia groundnuts says groundnut farming is a cool venture with sweet returns if a farmer acts within time to avert any losses between harvesting and storage.
“Groundnuts are best harvested in time when the leaves turn black and some start dropping as a sign of maturity,” said Simiyu adding that the harvested groundnuts should be spread in the sun or in an open place for 6-7 days taking care to cover them if it rains.
The primary objective of curing or drying is to achieve a rapid but steady drying of pods in order to avoid aflatoxin contamination.
For good storage and germination, the moisture content of the pods should be reduced to 6–8%. The correct drying or curing of the harvested groundnuts is very important as poor curing can help induce fungal growth and reduces seed quality including groundnuts meant for consumption, according to Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.
Eliakim Otieno, a dealer in groundnuts in Siaya County says that for hygiene purposes and to ensure even drying of the groundnuts, a farmer can also use a solar dryer made of locally available materials like wooden poles, sticks, wire mesh and a plastic sheets.
According to Kilimo Biashara groundnut ranges from Sh7,500 to 13,000 per 100kg bag, in Western, Eastern and Coastal areas.