By Jolene Njambi
Farmers are cutting costs on post-harvest pesticides, and slashing crop losses and aflatoxins, by using specialised hermetic bags to store grain so that it’s dry and air-tight.
As it is, Kenya has been plagued by postharvest losses, which claim more than a million tonnes of grain a year, worth over Sh33.5bn, according to a recent USAID report.
The huge scale of such losses has been caused by poor postharvest management and storage, which exposes grains to pests and diseases as well as aflatoxin, which can kill consumers.
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As a result, farmers have reported planting up to 30 per cent more grain in order to compensate for their post-harvest losses.
However, the increasing use of hermetic bags is slashing their losses by up to 80 per cent, with the gains proving greatest for maize.
The hermetic bags retail at Sh250, come in three layers and can last for up to three years depending on how they are kept.
Farmers also do not need to apply chemicals in the storage of produce, as the air-tight bags, through their woven polypropylene (WPP) outer covering, deplete the contents stored inside of oxygen, producing carbon dioxide instead. This creates unfavourable conditions for the existence of pests and prevents aflatoxin contamination caused by grains exposure to moisture in storage.
In addition to their low cost, hermetic bags require only basic training to use. The grains must first be dried to a maximum moisture content of 13.5 per cent, which is normally done under the sun. The farmer then places the grain in the bag and squeezes out as much air as possible. To seal, the farmer must tie both interior bags, finishing with the outer layer.
Maximum dryness is of utmost importance or the grain will rot or germinate.
I’ve seen a lot of benefit with using this storage bag. Previously, I used to store my produce in a normal sack after harvesting and had to use chemicals or insects would invade it. It was difficult to get buyers for the chemically treated produce. With this new bag, I have seen a change in the quality of my produce and I’m able to store more grains for my business,” said Ruth Nguli, a farmer based in Makueni, Eastern Kenya.
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Currently, the bags can only be sourced from Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS), ZeroFly Storage Bags, Elite Storage Bags, GrainPro Storage Bags and AgroZ Storage Bags, which are the only authorised manufacturers of hermetic technology bags. This is to prevent counterfeit bags coming into the market and causing renewed problems for farmers by failing to deliver as promised.
“The reusable bags are fast spreading among smallholder farmers, and, if unregulated through developing the necessary standards, unscrupulous business people could dump sub-standard materials and pass them on as hermetic storage solutions,” warns East Africa Grain Council executive director Gerald Masila.
Elite Innovations Limited – 0722607553
AgroZ Storage bags limited – 0791293939