Why Coastal farmers should store grains in airtight containers

Coastal farmers intending to avoid storage losses should store their grains in air tight containers as opposed to the normal storage bags. According to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization crops researcher Eliud Njoroge, storage pests destroy 20-40% of grains in the coastal region after harvest because of the wet, hot and humid weather.

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Harvested maize

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Farmers will thus save on storage costs as airtight containers do not need pesticides or any chemicals. Initially, smallholder farmers have been using various chemicals which may be harmful to human health when used in excess. Farmers have maintain poorly ventilated stores which are unsuitable for storing grain, and this hinders proper drying of the maize and exposes it to pests and weather damage. 

With this storage method, consumers are assured of eating healthy meals from their maize, beans or rice. Airtight containers are easy to obtain, cheap and last a long time. They keep grains dry and safe from the wet weather, they also keep seeds healthy for easy germination when farmers plant them.

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Airtight containers are suitable for farmers with small plots and small traders who sell grains and seeds. Before storage, farmers should harvest the grain when mature and dry then shell the maize and thresh the pulses and winnow to remove unwanted materials. The grains should be dried until they rattle when shaken. It is important to observe the grains closely and if any weevils are seen dry again until they disappear. Before loading the grains into the container, dry it and ensure no wetness is seen inside the container.

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Cracked containers should be avoided as they let in damp air in. If you want to use grain for seed the next season then select and shell the middle bit of the cob to get top quality seed. Store the container in a cool dry place and don't leave the container open for long when you are using some grain.

Some of the pests which can be controlled by using this storage method include weevils, moths, bean bruchids, cow pea bruchid and large grain borer.

In the coastal region a 90 kg bag of dry maize fetches ksh. 2900 in Mombasa, while in Malindi it goes for ksh 3600. A 90 kg bag of sorghum retails at Ksh 4050 in Mombasa while the same amount earns Ksh 5,400 in Malindi.