“Given the current post-harvest loss rates of up to 60 percent for perishable crops, Nigeria needs to rapidly introduce new storage solutions across its agricultural system,” says Audu Ogbeh at the launch of the Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016 – 2020) of the Buhari administration.
Nigeria’s current post-harvest loss rate of up to 60 percent for perishable crops is doubtlessly due to lack of modern and improved storage facilities, which means helpless farmers allow their hard-earned fruits and vegetables perish before their own eyes, simply because they don’t have access to storage facilities that will help them preserve the commodities until such a time when they so wish to dispose them off in the market.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has pegged the country’s tomatoes need at 2.2million tons (annually) whereas the local supply is put at 800,000 tons. However, the ministry says in reality, value of the tomatoes being harvested annually in Nigeria is around 1.8 million tons; which means 700,000 tons ( i.e almost half) is lost to lack of storage and processing facilities, during post-harvest.
The fact that peasant farmers loose almost half of perishable farm products especially fruits and vegetables like mangoes, oranges, pineapples and tomatoes, every year is obviously due to lack of preservation and conditioning facilities which leaves the farmers with the sad choice of either allowing their hard-earned harvests perish before their very own eyes or disposed them off at huge losses!
A combination of the absence of agricultural produce marketing boards which used to buy farm produce from subsistence farmers at regulated prices, lack of motorable roads and efficient and affordable transport systems for farmers as well as corrupt acts of security agents manning our major highways means perishable crops like tomatoes either get damaged or have their quality significantly reduced, before they reach markets down South from the North.
The continues loss being recorded by Nigerian farmers is not only at huge costs to the farmers themselves; rather it also contribute significantly to our consistent failure to meet our local demand for these perishable products hence our food insecurity – even though in reality, we not only have the capacity meet our local demand for the same products but also boast of the capacity for their export.
At the heart of achieving self-sufficiency and food security lies the ability of governments to come up with innovative storage solutions in the form of efficient preservation, conditioning and warehousing facilities.
Achieving this will require public private partnerships and investments in silos complexes, cold rooms, well ventilated warehouses as well as empowering our crops research institutes to come up with high quality and less perishable seeds, among other innovative storage solutions.
Whereas successive administrations (military and civilian alike) in Nigeria including the Obasanjo, Shagari and Babangida regimes did came up with various agricultural development policies aimed at attaining self-sufficiency and achieving food security in Nigeria, not much was achieved in terms of establishment of innovative storage facilities for agricultural produce, particularly fruits and vegetables which are highly perishable in nature.
Therefore, the Federal Government’s decision to establish various Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZs) aimed at attracting private sector agribusinesses investment in processing plants across regions with high food production, to process commodities into food products, is a right step in the right direction, especially if the government ensures appropriate fiscal, investment and infrastructure policies, as it promises do.
As well as the FG’s N66 billion investment to establish 33 silo complexes, 25 grain aggregation centers, this will help provide peasant farmers with market for especially their perishable commodities which risk being lost to lack of basic preservation techniques and therefore help Nigeria attain food security which is critical for achieving economic development.