‘Take precautions against post-harvest and storage losses’ Grain silos

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

AMID the heightening fears of a potentially bad season courtesy of the current dry spell, Government has urged farmers with surplus grain to ring-fence and protect it against anything that might damage it.

Such a move will ensure households remain food secure until the next harvest.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Chief Agronomist Ms Rutendo Nhongonhema said farmers should embrace storage technologies that reduce losses due to pest action thereby improving food security in the process.

Said Ms Nhongonhema: “It is advisable for farmers to ensure their storage facilities are in good condition. If storage facilities are not in good condition, they should be repaired on time. Grains with high moisture content can rot.”

Efforts must be made to ensure that produce, in whatever form is handled well and carefully so that wastage and losses can be brought to a bare minimum.

“Farmers should store grain when it has the correct moisture content and also before bringing in the grain for storage, farmers should also ensure the room or silo is clean and free from pests. Fumigation before storing grain is advisable.

“In closed structures such as granaries, warehouses and metal silos, cleanliness, temperature control and humidity is particularly important. Storage facilities should always be clean and farmers are encouraged to constantly check the stored grain to monitor and control pests,” added Ms Nhongonhema.

The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) recommends moisture levels of around 12, 5 percent and anything above that may result in the produce rotting or developing fungi.

Damage caused by pests such as insects, rodents and moulds can lead to deterioration of facilities and result in losses in quality and food value as well as quantity.

Agriculture expert and Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) Board chairperson, Mr Ivan Craig said while it is important to protect grain, farmers should also be wary of the chemicals they use, as this may affect their health.

He said: “Caution should be taken when buying pesticides and fumigants to protect grain. Farmers should avoid dangerous substances that not only destroy pests, but could be harmful to their own health and expert advice should be sought when not sure.

“It is important that farmers desist from buying backyard and adulterated pesticides as these may not be effective or may have dangerous substances. For effective results, farmers should use, read and understand labels before use or seek assistance.

“Before consumption, farmers are encouraged to observe safety periods. Safe period refers to the time from application of the pesticide to the time when the pesticide is adjudged to have disintegrated so that it will not pose health threats to the consumer, as most chemicals only last for nine months.”

He further emphasised that crops may be affected by moulds, bacteria, sprouting or over spilling. Storage facilities should always be clean and farmers should constantly check on their stored grain to monitor and control pests. It is advisable that farmers ensure their storage facilities are in good condition.

Meanwhile, in a recent post on X (formerly twitter), the Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Services (ARDAS) said the Indian government and Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development had since joined the push to curb post-harvest food losses for smallholder farmers through availing 10 by five tonnes metal silos to some farmers in districts.

Said ARDAS: “Food waste due to inadequate storage has been a persistent problem. Storage is the major cause of post-harvest losses for all kinds of food in Zimbabwe. To combat the challenge of post-harvest losses, a strong thrust towards modern and scientific means of grain storage is essential.”

ARDAS further highlighted that the use of metal silos had been credited with a reduction in post-harvest losses in grains in many developing countries. When properly used, metal silos are very effective in reducing crop losses to almost zero.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) about 30 percent of the harvested grain is lost due to lack of appropriate storage facilities, a situation forcing farmers to sell most of their grain soon after harvesting at very low prices, leaving them poor and vulnerable.

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