Skip to main content

Can testing of maize quality transform how produces and traders handle maize and grow the supply of premium maize in Rwanda


Maize is a staple crop grown and consumed in Rwanda. Each year 75% of total output is produced in a single season – between December and March. Poor harvesting and post-harvest handling practices result in an estimated 25% post-harvest losses, high incidences of rotten and immature grain and high levels of quality degradation including pest damages, aflatoxin contamination, high  moisture content, etc. Due to limited testing capacity there has been no systemic analysis on the quality of maize in Rwandan markets to date. Maize aggregators and traders have limited market incentive to manage quality because there has so far been no accessible, affordable, and independent means to measure quality. A lack of accurate data on quality means traders’ are routinely rejected from high value markets and default to selling to informal markets. By most accounts, larger processors, including Africa Improved Foods (AIF), reject up to 90% of all locally sourced maize.



In June 2021, Vanguard Economics launched an innovative mobile maize testing service in Rwanda, in partnership with the IFC, called Aflakiosk. Aflakiosk has mobile laboratory capabilities including quantitative testing of aflatoxin. The Aflakiosk project was designed to address the challenge of quality in the maize value chain and ensure producers and traders realise the maximum value for their maize. Aflakiosk has three priority focus areas; 1)providing accurate and accessible information on maize quality; 2) raising awareness on the importance (food safety) and potential value-add (additional markets) of maize quality; and 3) increasing the quantity of quality of locally produced maize available to formal markets, mainly premium processors.

Aflakiosk offers maize grain and maize flour testing across ten quality parameters used to determine grade including quantitative aflatoxin tests. Aflakisok tests are six times cheaper than alternative opportunities currently available in the market and results can be delivered within 1 hour (23 hours earlier than other providers). The mobile nature of the testing equipment means the lab can come to aggregators, reducing the cost and time in transport for traders. Aflakiosk scored amongst the most accurate tests for 2021 in the global Aflatoxin Proficiency Testing and Control programme run through the Texas A&M AGRILIFE RESEARCH.

As an independent test provider, Aflakiosk has built a strong level of trust with traders and producers. This trust is essential to encouraging uptake in voluntary testing where a general suspicion remains due to heavy enforcement of standards by government testing labs in the past. Aflakiosk has engaged with relevant GoR agencies to encourage compliance with national maize quality standards through increased availability of voluntary testing by independent labs.



Since full operationalisation of Aflakiosk in June 2021 the following has been achieved:

  • Test completed: Aflakisok completed 800 quality tests on maize and flour between June 2021 and February 2022
  • Quantity tested: Approximately 30,00MT of maize has been tested countrywide;
  • Aggregators Engaged: Aflakiosk tested samples from over 100 traders, 20 cooperatives, and maize flour from 40 processors. Aflakiosk participated a joint IFC and WFP stakeholder symposium to increase uptake and engagement.
  • market Linkages: 450MT of maize linked to premium buyers



Analysis from the first  six months of test data on maize available in the markets (local and imported) has revealed the following insights:

  • Only 5% of maize tested was grade 1, meaning there are significant quality control challenges present in the value chain.
  • 68% of the sampled maize ( local and import) had aflatoxin levels of 10 ppb or below (the limit set as safe for human consumption). For locally produces maize 44% of samples have levels of 10 ppb or below (the level required for the largest processor in Rwanda).
  • 27% of the maize flour sampled is considered unsafe for human consumption.
  • 33% of samples taken from animal feed products had aflatoxin levels above 20 ppb, defined as unsafe for animal consumption.

While aflatoxin remains prevalent in the Rwandan maize value chain, an assessment of the data generated by Aflakiosk over the past several months has identified a variety of factors impacting quality and safety these include:

  • Moisture content: 40% of the samples tested had moisture content above 13.5%( the moisture content required for safe grain storage), meaning it is susceptible to molding and rapid deterioration.
  • Immature Grain: 80% of samples had immature grain levels above 1%(the acceptable limit for Grade 1 maize).
  • Live Infestation: 64% of samples had live infestation presence, a condition which automatically excludes the maize from human or animal consumption.
  • Total defects: 49% of samples tested have more than 5% of total defects, which explains high rejection of maize on the premium market.

The data suggest that aflatoxin, whilst high, is actually a symptom of poor maize quality management along the entire value chain. Data from Aflakiosk can identify where interventions should be targeted to improve quality and safety for processors and consumers in maize markets. However, it should be noted that data generated so far only covers out-of-season maize stocks. As more tests are conducted the insights may evolve.



Multiple lines of targeted interventions are required to address the root cause of poor maize quality, these are:

  • Expansion of maize quality testing through Aflakiok to capture greater volumes of maize throughout the entire year.
  • Provision of training to aggregators (traders and cooperatives) on a) general food safety; and b) specific quality parameters for maize quality management.
  • Engagement with a wider range of parameters and stakeholders to raise awareness of quality challenges in the maize value chain.