An agriculturist, Dr Tunde Arosonye, has described post-harvest losses as the major challenge militating against attainment of food security in Nigeria.
Arosonye, Technical Adviser of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said that climate change was also creating critical conditions that could make post-harvest losses even a greater challenge.
He said that post-harvest losses occurred at every point along the value chain corridor, including during harvesting on-farm, processing or transport from farm to market.
Arosoyin said that such losses decreased the amount of available food, which in turn raised prices, reduced producer incomes and discouraged farmers from farming.
He said that considering the ever growing population of the country, government and other stakeholders must come together and work out efforts to mitigate the losses.
Arosoyin said that inadequate processing and storage facilities and the broken down road networks was encouraging small scale industries to spring up.
He said that lack of storage and agro-processing facilities, poor value chain system, marketing and ageing farmers had hampered agricultural development in the country leading to huge losses thereby hindering food security.
The technical adviser said that measures to reduce food losses could also include climate resilience.
He said that improving storage or refrigeration could reduce the vulnerability of harvested produce to heat and pest infestation as well as preserving nutrients, especially in highly perishable produce like fruit and vegetables.
Arosonyin said that improving processing techniques not only helped to reduce post-harvest losses also provided farmers with the opportunity to improve the quality of their produce, exploit new markets and increase their incomes.
He said that reducing post-harvest losses required reliable data on where, when, why and to what extent they were occurring in order to inform decisions on investment in loss reduction programmes.
The adviser said that it was unfortunate that Nigeria as the world largest producer of many of the produce such as cassava, tomatoes, cashew among others, only 60 per cent of food made it to market due to post-harvest losses.
Arosonye said that in processing the produce, farmers lose between 30 to 45 per cent of their harvest.
According to him, there is little understanding of the impact that losses have on smallholder productivity, welfare, and the benefits that can arise from interventions to reduce such losses.
“The worst among the produce are vegetables and fruits that are easily perishable and this has discouraged production, especially during the harvesting.
“The losses also cut across the tuber family like cassava, yam, and potatoes and the only area were losses are reduced are the cereal family like rice, sorghum and millet amongst others,’’ he said.
Arosoyin noted that in recent times, the country’s food production had been static because the struggling smallholder farmers work very hard to plant all sorts of crops and harvest them, “but there is no market or profit guarantee for them’’.
He said that the low production could also be attributed to the high number of aged farmers and the number of youths not interested in farming as a result of the crude method of farming.
The agric expert advised that government should start working on replacing the aged farmers and work on the university curriculum for students to start choosing agriculture as the main course rather than option. (NAN)