The Government of Pakistan has blocked all shipments of red kidney beans imported from Ethiopia effective immediately. According to the Pakistani Ministry of National Food Security and Research, this is due to a cause of concern over a “serious, destructive and virulent quarantine disease”, widely known as ‘Fusarium chlamydosporum’.
Fusarium is a large genus of filamentous fungi, part of a group often referred to as hyphomycetes, widely distributed in soil and associated with plants. Most species are harmless saprobes, and are relatively abundant members of the soil microbial community. However, according to literature, some species produce mycotoxins in cereal crops that can affect human and animal health if they enter the food chain.
The directive from the Department of Plant Protection of Pakistan highlighted how red bean shipments imported from Ethiopia on arrival in Pakistan during pest risk analysis, were deemed unsafe for human consumption and were refused entry. The ban became effective on Wednesday, March 29 in Karachi and is for the indefinite future.
The Ethiopian beans are believed to carry high levels of phytohemagglutinin, potentially making them vulnerable to turning toxic. Pakistan, like its neighboring India, has been a major importer of food items, including beans, from Ethiopia. Beans are part of the South Asian culture, mostly used to make a traditional cuisine, rajma. This latest development is a blow to local exporters to the reputation of local beans.
According to a noted exporter The Reporter spoke to, quality and loose regulations within Ethiopia led to the ban and there was a need to compromise on quality for many, in the midst of stiff competitions for cheap products. Some are blaming the long 3,808 kilometers journey, which has caused damages to the beans, affecting both appearance and quality.
Ethiopian red kidney beans are popular in the world, in particular in Scandinavian and European countries, including Germany. The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) started trading it on its floor last year, after the passing of regulations from the Council of Ministers.
The Reporter reached out to the Pakistani Embassy in Ethiopia and its ambassador, Asghar Ali Golo for comment. As of press time, there was no response.