EDITORIAL: Crop losses can be effectively tamed

Monday October 21 2019

 

The leading story on the front page of The Citizen yesterday (October 20, 2019) was on post-harvest crop losses costing the economies in sub-Saharan Africa (s-SA).

It was noted that, for example, stakeholders in agriculture in the s-SA region lose about $4 billion annually through post-harvest poor practices and other shortcomings as a matter of course.

Generally, post-harvest losses take into account measurable quantitative and qualitative losses in a given agricultural produce.

The losses occur from the stage of harvesting to the stage of consumption. They include – but are not limited to – losses in terms of quality (e.g.: produce/product deterioration in storage, etc.) and quantity (during processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, etc.), as well as food wasted by retailers (expiry date/shelf-life, etc.) and end-consumers.

There is also the concept of ‘pre-harvest losses’ which occur before the process of harvesting begins – and which are usually due to insects, birds, rodents, weeds and rust.

This is to say nothing of the ‘harvest losses’ in-between, which occur from the beginning to the completion of actual harvesting...

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As reported in The Citizen of August 27, 2017, “post-harvest food losses are unacceptably high in Tanzania and throughout eastern Africa. Crop losses are persistently in the range of 30-to-40 per cent – largely resulting from poor handling and storage practices especially by smallholders, as well as a variety of pests and weather-related factors...”So, this is where to start in seeking to reduce crop losses at all the three stages: pre-harvest, during harvest and post-harvest: improve crops harvesting, handling (sorting, processing, packaging, storage, transporting, marketing, etc.) in terms of farmers education and adequate requisite facilities. Needless to stress, use of quality seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and appropriate infrastructure/facilities, as well as unstinted support from our development partners, coupled with prayers to Ceres – the goddess of Agriculture, Grain Crops and Fertility – should see us out of the crop losses trap.