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Combating Post-harvest Losses



Each year, no fewer than 1.3billion tonnes of the world’s food get lost or wasted. Much of the food grown never makes it past the farm gate, contributing to food insecurity. One-third of the food produced globally for consumption is either lost or wasted along the supply chain. This could have been used to feed 1.6 billion people every year. The losses, though a persistent challenge across the world, are higher in Africa, with negative effect on food security, nutrition and economic stability.

Today, one of the main global challenges is how to ensure food security for the world’s growing population, while ensuring long term sustainable development. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, food production will need to grow by 70 percent to feed world population, which is estimated to reach about nine billion by 2050. But with the post-harvest losses recorded yearly it is doubtful if this target will be attainable.

Over the years, increased food production has become a policy mantra of most governments. Sadly, about 50 percent of fruits and vegetables, 40 percent of root crops and tubers and 20 percent of cereals are lost before they even make it to the market, that is between the farm gates and market. It is more worrisome. That 70 percent of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet, food insecurity is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Worse still, greater percentage of the population do not consume enough of the required micronutrients critical for proper growth and development.

Ironically, in our view, Nigeria is one of 10 countries with the highest burden of malnutrition in the world that also lose about N10 billion yearly to Post Harvest Losses, PHL, which represents a vast amount of food, along with the wasted cost and effort at producing it. Therefore, reducing PHL could increase income for 470 million small holder farms, representing a big step forward in global efforts to end hunger and poverty. So eliminating those losses are a way to increase food availability and affordability without requiring additional resources or placing burdens on the environment.

It is a disturbing situation, in our opinion, that though post-harvest losses happen at every stage of the supply chain, the series of attempts via invention to curb the menace by donors, governments and technical assistance agencies still remain high. While engineers are working to develop new innovations, small farmers are not quick in adapting to or are not convinced of the benefits of using such new technologies. If used more widely, it will go a long way in addressing PHL promptly or at least reduce it to a manageable level.

We think that there must be a behavioural change at the individual level, which is often the last –mile challenge standing in the way of significant post –harvest loss reduction. Nigeria with the largest economy in Africa and with a growing agro industrial private sector that includes agro supply services and technologies, processors and distributors still has a limited availability of quality private sector post-harvest loss solutions.

There is therefore an urgent need for cold/cool chain sector. That is a temperature-controlled supply chain to reduce the frequent wastage and losses recorded yearly in perishable produce and cereals, particularly in the nation’s agriculture belts. A reliable and efficient cold chain system will contribute significantly to reducing food losses and waste in quality and quantity, improve efficiency of the supply chain and help deliver safer and more nutritious foods to the consumer.

For instance, the 2014 Global Cold Storage Capacity Report shows that Nigeria has one of the lowest cold storage capacity in Africa, 10,000m3, while countries like Namibia have 150,000m3, South Africa 323,000m3, Morocco 1,700,000m3 and Egypt 3,250,000m3.This data shows great potentials to develop and harness the enormous benefits of a functional cold chain system, aside strengthening and reducing post-harvest loss of nutritious foods as well as preserve health and pharmaceutical products.

We are compelled to posit that if we, as a nation, want to improve our food security. It will also help to reduce food shortages, lower price volatility in off seasons, and contribute significantly to the national economy by reducing dependence on imports. Food insecurity remains unacceptably high, and requires a multifaceted approach to curbing it. Individuals, food producers and the government ought to pull resources together to ensure success in that direction.

It is in recognition of this fact that we urge all and sundry to embrace the FAO’s SAVE FOOD – a Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction based on the concept of partnership and collaboration. This, we believe, will help in the long run in preventing food waste and also help in contributing to a more sustainable food system.



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