Reducing post-harvest losses pathway to food security in N/East – Experts
September 14, 2022 4 min read
Some agronomists in the North-East have advocated modern preservation technologies to check post-harvest losses in the country.They also called for comprehensive extension services to educate farmers on modern preservation techniques to fast track successful implementation of the national food security programme.
The agro-experts made the call while responding to a survey on strategic food reserve by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Bauchi, Damaturu, Dutse, Gombe and Maiduguri.They said addressing the root causes of post-harvest losses is a key pathway to food and nutrition security in the region and the country at large.
According to them, the measure will enhance implementation of the National Strategic Grain Reserve Storage Programme to achieve food security.The programme is being implemented by the Federal Government, designed to provide relief in time of national disasters, drought, and conflicts.
It is also aim to control post-harvest losses and provide accessible market for the produce to maintain price stability and ensure food security.The Federal Government constructed 33 silos across the country with a total capacity of 1.3 million metric tonnes.
Government had established silos in Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa and Yola each with 25,000 metric tonnes capacity.While those in Yobe and Maiduguri with 25,000 and 100,000 metric tonnes capacity are at various stages of completion, respectively.Most of the facilities in the region are almost empty or now being used for other purposes.
In Gombe State, Dr Mohammed Musa, Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), stressed the need for state and local authorities to compliment Federal Government’s effort towards providing preservation facilities at grassroots.
“There is need for government at all levels to strengthen extension services to enable farmers to adopt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), to boost productivity and reduce food loss.
“With good extension education, farmers will know the best moisture content for storing produce. Moisture can cause spoilage and shortens the shelf life of the produce,” he said.
He said the menace could also be addressed through enhancing farmer access to subsidised packaging and processing equipment such as dryers, tarpaulins and containers.
Similarly; Mr Garba Chiroma, Director of the FMARD in Yobe, said the ministry had adopted proactive preservation methods to check post-harvest losses.He said the government has been mopping up excess grain through aggregated dealers under the National Strategic Food Feserve Programme.
“The federal government is trying to prevent food loss through the provision of insecticide treated double lining polythene sacks which enable farmers to store their produce from six to 12 months,” he said.
The director said the ministry had distributed two mini rice mills with 10 tonnes daily production capacity, and multi purpose threshers for millet, sorghum and maize to small holder farmer groups in the state.
The ministry, he said has been building farmer enterprising skills to expose them to processing of cassava, tomato and other perishable produce.According to him, the 25,000 capacity metric tonnes silo project in the state has reached about 95 per cent completion stage.
However, farmers attributed spate of food loss to lack of modern storage facilities and hot weather condition in the region.
A tomato grower in Dutse, Jigawa, Gambo Shahudi said perishable produce such as tomato, pepper, onions, vegetables and water melon often wilt as it could not be preserve under high temperature.He said the situation was further compounded by poor farmer skills in modern preservation techniques.
“It is desirable to provide specialised storage facilities and encourage establishment of tomato processing plants in rural areas,” he said.
A tomato dealer, Sani Kafingana lamented that lack of such facilities forced them to sell the produce at lower a price thereby exposing them to losses.
Also, Hajiya Fatima Misau, Treasurer, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON) in Bauchi State, urged government at all levels to scale up post-harvest interventions to enhance food security in the country.
She said such intervention is imperative in the area of storage, transportation, processing, packaging and distribution chain to add value and provide market for the produce.She also called for practical measures to encourage private sector investment in silos management to reduce post-harvest losses.
For his part, Samuel Luka, a maize grower in Bauchi, called for review of the silos concession agreements, to make it functional and encourage sustainable growth in the sector.
He also called for deployment of more extension workers to train farmers on preservation techniques as well as establishment of small scale storage facilities and aggregation centres in farming communities.
“This is necessary to encourage productivity and enhance food security in the country,” he said.