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The discovery of Aflatoxin naturally occurring mycotoxins that contaminate grain before harvest or during storage in Serbia's agriculture have caused consumption of milk and other dairy products to plunge and almost all exports halted.
The health scare has spread, with Montenegro Thursday, February 21 suspending domestic milk production and distribution after toxins were discovered in milk from neighbouring countries in the Balkan region.
Serbia's exports consists mainly of agriculture products, and the country takes pride in its GMO-free food production, but now this national trademark has been partially tainted by the presence of aflatoxin M1 in milk from contaminated animal feed, particularly corn, which resulted from last year's drought.
Information from Serbian Chamber of Commerce shows that Serbia exported some 1.6m tonnes of corn in 2012. But in 2013 after an initial export of 350,000 tonnes, the country's corn export came to almost a complete halt, since first reports regarding presence of Aflatoxin in this crop were made public in late 2012 by private laboratory SGS Group.
Olivera Cirkovic from Univerexport, one of the larges retail chains in Serbia, told Novosti Thursday that sales of milk dropped some 30% in only one day since the scandal broke out.
Secretary of Association for Agriculture and Food Processing industry at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Zeljko Brozovic, told Xinhua that it is impossible to make accurate assessment of how much damage will hit Serbian agriculture. "I am afraid that this is just the beginning, and we could be facing a domino effect, if actions to stop this are not credible and swift. Apart from milk, all other meat and diary products could be affected by Aflatoxin," said Brozovic.
"Problem is that only about 4% of cattle feed in Serbia, comes from the authorized large production plants, while the rest 96% is delivered by small private producers, which often do not take all necessary procedures of safe stocking. This has to change."
The Ministry of Agriculture has asked for corn from state reserves to be given to dairy farmers who currently feed their cattle with contaminated fodder.
Meanwhile, Montenegro suspended domestic milk production and distribution after toxins were discovered in milk from neighbouring countries in the Balkan region, reported Radio Television Montenegro (RTCG) on Thursday, Xinhua reported.
According to the Montenegrin Ministries of Agriculture and Health, milk production will be suspended until domestic dairy sources have been tested and analyzed.
Milk from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were withdrawn from shelves a day earlier after tests revealed high levels of the carcinogen aflatoxin. Croatian milk was banned for high levels of aflatoxin earlier in the month.
Spaso Popovic, Assistant Director for Inspections, said the Montenegrin public would be informed of the test results, which should take several days.
The government said there was no reason for panic and the suspension of milk production was a precautionary measure.
Related News in English
Povezane vesti na srpskom
Συναφείς Ειδήσεις στα Ελληνικά