Every year, farmers in the country loose a third of their produce through post harvest loses. On the hand, consumers waste food by buying more than they need. Post harvest loses negate the efforts that farmers have to go through waiting for their crops to be ready for the market. Post-harvest losses occur through poor management, storage, and conveyance as the crop moves from the farm to the market.
As much as food spoilage is a global problem, it is more prevalent in Africa because of poor physical infrastructure and technological mishaps. Lack of proper facilities post-harvest and markets means that 40% of food is wasted before it can be eaten. Farmers and consumers have been taken hostage by middlemen because flow of information is controlled by a few players in the agricultural value chain. To solve this problem that is estimated to cost the Kenyan economy Kshs. 150 billion, there should be a multisectoral approach for success.
80% of food that is consumed in urban areas is produced by rural farmers which calls for concerted efforts by all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain to reduce post harvest losses and food wastage. The time factor in the agricultural supply value chain plays a critical role in contributing to or reducing post harvest losses and food wastage. This is because farmers who have a ready crop have to wait for middlemen to purchase their produce while consumers have to rely on middlemen to deliver the same to their suppliers/stores in urban areas which has created a market imperfection that needs to be addressed.
As much as infrastructural developments like good road networks will ensure that food produce can be delivered on time to the market, it requires a huge capital outlay. In this case, we cannot therefore underscore the importance of technology in bridging agricultural food supply chain gaps because it has a latent potential of on-boarding all the players in a seamless and cost effective way. Notably, it will help in marketing and avoiding middlemen who buy farmers produce at low prices and spoil it either en-route to the market or while at the market. With good flow of information on pricing and market, farmers will be able to time their harvesting well so that they only avail produce from the farms when it is needed thereby increasing their profitability.
Farmers and consumes need to be part of this digital revolution because they are key players in minimizing food wastage in the agricultural sector. This is based on the fact that for such an initiative to succeed, their input should be considered. As much as farmers and consumers are encouraged to embrace technology as a channel towards creation of an efficient agricultural supply value chain, stakeholders should support initiatives that will help to unravel this puzzle. Going forward, the government should be at the forefront in offering incentives for post-harvest technological initiatives that are geared towards minimizing food wastage because it has an impact on the country’s food security. It is good to note that there are plans to cut on these losses to 15 per cent by 2022 as part of the governments Big Four Agenda. For success, scientific methods of determining post-harvest loss will make it easier for authorities to take action with key deliverables in mind.