With the devastating impact of post-harvest loss (PHL) threatening global food security and crippling economic growth, agricultural stakeholders convened in Lagos at the Nigeria Postharvest and Agro-processing Summit to brainstorm on how to curb the phenomenon.
Held under the theme, “PostHarvest Loss Reduction and Agro-processing in Nigeria: Current development and trends”, the Summit focused on the challenges facing smallholder farmers in the country from the point of harvest to receipt of value for their money, factoring in instances where they suffer loss on account of deterioration in quality and value of their produce. The event was put together by AgroQuest Africa Network, in conjunction with the Western Zonal office of the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI). According to Abiodun Olaniyi, Executive Director of the Network, the summit was envisioned to serve as a critical platform for building capacity among farmers to enable them tackle PHL through better farmstead activities and overall handling of produce during and after harvest.
The keynote speaker and Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of development at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Professor Lateef Sanni, on his part, underscored the global nature of the PHL phenomenon, pointing out however that it is rampant in developing countries. On his part, the MD/CEO of AgroNigeria, Mr. Richard-Mark Mbaram expressed deep concerns about the impact that PHL is having on Nigerian farmers. According to Mbaram, “the scourge of PHL is particularly frustrating to the farmer because it is loss occasioned at a point after (s)he has produced and has some hope of remuneration, only to watch the produce deteriorate under his or her auspices”. He further noted that, “knowing the amount of effort which the average smallholder farmer puts in, it becomes a massively debilitating experience which does not only affect the pocket of the farmer, but his entire psyche”. Professor Sanni had earlier highlighted the fact that 95% of research funding is targeted at increasing productivity while just about 5% was aimed at preventing losses. Premising his position on this, Mbaram cautioned that there is need to radically increase the ratio of investment in research geared towards mitigating post harvest losses.
Speaking further, Mbaram noted that a 2017 African Union study aptly demonstrates the political economics of investing in Postharvest loss mitigation. Statistics from the AU study showed that in Ethiopia, about $1.3 billion worth of agricultural grain produce went to waste, while the country imported about $1.25 billion worth of grain. Working from this premise, Mbaram concluded that “it is a no brainer that if the country had put in the investment needed to address postharvest losses, it would not need to expend resources importing grains”.
The Summit’s participants urged the government to set itself towards mitigating postharvest losses. “Farmers want to see clear cut action on the part of government to address such issues like provision of critical infrastructure, particularly storage and transportation infrastructure, as well as power” said Otunba Femi Oke, South Western Zonal Coordinator of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).
Moving forward, he urged the private and public sector to work hand in hand to incorporate rapid infrastructure as key to the development of the agricultural sector, and ensure that the projects are commenced and completed within their stated cycle.
Otunba Femi Oke also lauded the organisers of NIPHAS, stating that the collaboration of all farmers and stakeholders is an integral step in efforts to transform the agricultural ecosystem in Nigeria. Oke emphasized that the government expects all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain; farmers, researchers, industrialists, marketers,exporters and policy makers at all levels, to join hands to take Nigerian agriculture to the NextLevel.