PILES of fruits left to decay at market places in many urban areas are not uncommon. Mangoes, pineapples, oranges and even bananas left to rot at the market or on the roadsides have always become the norm and could be viewed as a sign of plenty.
Huge percentage of fruits and vegetables do rot along the value chain and left to be washed down the drains or collected as garbage in almost all major markets in urban areas. According to East African Community (EAC) statement issued in March, 2023, post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetable reached up to 70 per cent.
We think this estimate is cumulative because fruits and vegetable losses occur at every stage of the supply chain – from production to the consumption. What we see in market places may represent just a part of what is lost from the very beginning due to poor harvest practices and poor handling.
Post-harvest losses of food are also seen in cereals and roots and tubers, where the losses are estimated to reach 30 per cent and 50 per cent annually, according to EAC. This magnitude of food losses is huge and makes it hard to alleviate poverty to farmers and maintain food security.
On the same note, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that one third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted along the supply chain. Losses are even higher in Africa, and have a negative effect on food security, nutrition and economic stability.
Some of the issues that have exacerbated post-harvest losses include lack of market access, financing and use of outdated technology to store the grains.
We need clear policies that will reverse the situation and understanding that curbing post-harvest losses will have to involve everything from changing consumption patterns to investing in infrastructure and deploying new digital technologies.
It will not be simple and may not happen in a fortnight, but addressing the problem is key to unlocking the tremendous promise for enhancing inclusive economic growth, food security, and nutrition.
We are relieved to hear from EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors, Christophe Bazivamo that the EAC has developed clear policy directions and established a public private sector fruits and vegetables platform to drive faster development in the sector.
It is indeed good steps in the right direction that EAC has adopted fruits and vegetables strategy and post-harvest loss management action plan where, among other things will pursue best practices in contract farming, productivity, inputs, utilisation of modern and new technologies and capacity building.
We are convinced that multilevel interventions in the production supply chain will increase the amount of food on the table to contribute to food and nutrition security and bring money in the pockets of farmers.