Graphic Business News

Reducing post-harvest losses should be a priority

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
 Post-harvest loss is an old age challenge to the agric sector and threatens food and nutrition security

It is estimated that Ghana loses about GH₵700,000 annually on post-harvest losses (PHL). A World Bank report estimates that the value of PHL in  sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) could potentially reach nearly US$4 billion a year out of an estimated annual value of grain production of US$27 billion.

The issue is also being battled globally with a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) commissioned study stating that around one third (1.3 billion tonnes) of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally each year. 

It said losses in sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) is higher than those in South and Southeast Asia, with estimates from 2011 suggesting that 37 per cent of food produced in SSA is lost between production and consumption.

The PHL challenge
The FAO defines PHL as measurable losses in edible food quantity or nutritional value (quality) of food intended for human consumption.

Indeed, food loss is food that is available for human consumption that goes unconsumed.   
The PHL can occur throughout the value chain; from the time of harvest through processing, marketing, preparation and finally consumption and that in yam is said to be around 60 per cent high. 

Finding way out 
There is a post-harvest committee, comprising Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO), farmers and licensed buyers that meet to consider the crop budget plus input to come up with an agreed margin that is to be paid to the farmers as guaranteed prices.

The Chief Executive Officer of NAFCO, Mr Hanan Abdul Wahab, said by undertaking the above, farmers’ incomes were protected and guaranteed prices offered to them.

“As part of our role in preventing PHL, we purchase, sell, preserve and distribute food. We mop up excess produce from all farmers, facilitate the export of surplus stock and expand the demand for food grown in Ghana by selling to state institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals and the military,” he said in an interview.
He said NAFCO currently had a total of 1,381 licensed buyers and about 2,500 licensed suppliers.

“Eighty warehouses, in addition to the existing 14 warehouses in eight regions are expected to be completed by the end of this year to help manage emergency food security, mop up excess produce from all farmers in order to reduce PHL resulting from spoilage due to poor storage,” he added.

The Commodity Exchange
The operationalisation of the Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX), an electronic platform for buyers and sellers of agricultural and other commodities to trade in efficient and orderly manner, under set rules and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), provides hope in dealing with PHL.

The GCX provides that room of ensuring there is access to market for the farmer and at the same time because it is backed by warehouse receipt system (WRS), provides storage for the farmer and ensure that goods stored there get the right quality and quantity for the farmers.

It is expected that farmers can now postpone sales until when the market is more profitable, because normally they lack access to market information and are unable to absorb surplus produced during harvest.

This leads to a glut which results in low farm-gate prices and erode the income of poor households and smallholder farmers and expose them to food insecurity. 

The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has said that smallholder farmers produce about 80 per cent of our food and so they need interventions to help reduce the effect of PHL. 

The Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition (GTLC) has often advocated agricultural cooperative system (farmers with common interests often organised through cooperatives to strengthen their market power) as one of the best channels through which smallholder farmers can be mobilised and progressively impact enough capacity on them to overcome the challenge of PHL.