What good are bumper harvests without storage facilities?

01Mar 2016
The Guardian
What good are bumper harvests without storage facilities?

WITH post harvest losses claiming over 40 percent of Tanzania’s annual national production of cereals, it is futile to focus investment on increasing cereal production without improving post harvest issues.

Last year, many regions of the country enjoyed bumper harvests, but due to lack of proper storage facilities, farmers suffered great losses with many reporting that their harvests were rotting away at home.

As such, the surplus harvest did little to relieve the majority of peasant farmers their current conditions.

We believe that in the wake of this disastrous scenario, the need for more storage facilities to reduce food losses and transportation costs becomes obvious.

In fact, until the 1970’s, Tanzania had no clear policy on storage of agricultural produce.

However, following the outbreak of the larger grain borer pests in the 1980’s that resulted in high post harvest losses of cereals hence endangering food security in the country, the government began to support farmers to reduce post harvest losses.

Available data on post harvest losses (PHL) show that despite the increase of national cereal crop production estimated at 3.89 million tonnes annually, technologies used for harvesting and processing crops remain poor, causing average losses of 1.559 million tonnes per year.

PHL are driven by various kinds of damage which crops suffer after harvest, including those caused by insects and rats, losses during transportation from fields to storage and improper weighing and packaging.

Others are, improper drying, unpredictable markets which cause delay in selling the produce, loss during processing and breaking of grains, especially for rice.

There are many reasons why farmers do not use existing warehouses to the fullest capacity, with many lamenting storage charges as simply too high.

We believe that there is need for new storage technologies to be tested and equally important is the need for the government to develop a watertight policy to curb post harvest losses and address this problem comprehensively.

That is why new storage facilities being implemented by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with support from the Rockefeller Foundation in some parts of the country are welcome.

Farmers are no longer required to use chemicals in storing their agriculture produce, thanks to these new storage facilities.

These facilities are focused to help reduce the costs of inputs to small scale farmers while at the same time solving the challenges of post harvest loses.

Such initiatives can be best achieved if there is efficient and transparent coordination between the public and private sectors.

It is also important to acquaint farmers with harvesting techniques and post-harvest handling of crops. After all, how can we speak of food security when about half of what we grow is destroyed in post harvest losses?

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