All over the world, farmers, commodity traders, and aggregators are experiencing post-harvest losses in various ways along the value chain. This calls for global concern as the impact of post-harvest losses greatly affects each one of us in diverse ways. In Ghana, the story is no different. This article will share the outlook of post-harvest losses in Ghana, the statistics, the impact, and the way forward.
What is post-harvest loss?
The various stages a crop goes through, from harvesting to consumption is referred to as the value chain. Along this value chain is harvesting, drying, shelling, bagging, transportation, storage among others. As the crop or farm produce goes through these stages without appropriate measures, the farm produce can reduce in quantity and quality. For example; improper handling of crops and the use of wrong harvesting tools during harvesting can cause the crop being harvested to break. Therefore post-harvest loss can be described as the decline in quantity and quality of crops from harvesting to consumption.
Statistics on post-harvest losses in Ghana
In the Voices Newsletter written in 2006, it was estimated that many countries in Africa experience 25% in post-harvest loss of total cereal crops harvested. Also, according to a 2016 study, Ghana lost about 318,514 tonnes of maize annually to post-harvest losses and this makes up 18% of the total stock of maize produced in Ghana. In 2018, Ghana’s losses of cereals were valued at around US$141.12 million and that is more than GH¢680.19 million, using that year’s average exchange rate of US$1 to GH¢4.82. Clearly, the outlook of post-harvest losses in Ghana does not look good.
According to a United Nations report released on 21st June 2017, the world population is expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050. This means there is going to be a significant rise in our population in Ghana and can you imagine how much food we will need for feeding by that time? In an attempt to answer that question, the Food Agriculture Organization has suggested food production will need to grow by 70% to feed and sustain the world population. If you ask me, that’s a whole lot of food!
The impact of post-harvest losses
Post-harvest losses in Ghana decrease food quality and leave food less desirable for consumption. This also means that the food available for consumption is decreased. Hence, an increase in food insecurities, which could also lead to an increase in food prices due to food shortages. Post-harvest losses also affect the income of the farmer, since the value of the crop is depreciated and consumers will not want to buy at the original price. In extreme cases, there’s loss of livelihood, which takes us all the way to an increase in poverty. If this is not managed, meeting the FAO’s suggestion of increasing food production by 70% may become a challenge. Although not impossible to overcome.
The way forward
Obviously, post-harvest losses have far-reaching disadvantages. Hence the need for us all to practice post-harvest loss management. This will help to reduce post-harvest losses, food insecurities and increase our chances of food sustainability as a country and the world at large. This can be done by employing the use of technology and dialoguing with farmers to implement government policies and interventions that create avenues to increase food storage on a large scale. We can also lobby for the provision of proper road networks and infrastructure to enhance the transportation of food.
The world’s population is growing at a fast pace. That means Ghana’s population is growing too and as a country, we need to have enough food to feed ourselves and others. If the post-harvest loss is not managed, we will be in trouble and soon there will be no food, causing the rate of food insecurities to increase. But you can do your part as a grain farmer or aggregator by learning to manage post-harvest losses. Download the GrainMate App for Android on Playstore to have access to our wide range of learning resources on how to manage post-harvest losses.