The Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) will this week host the largest Agribusiness Expo on post harvest management in Kenya. The EAGC Agribusiness Expo 2014 brings together over 20,000 farmers, Sponsors and Exhibitors from all over the country, ranging from; grain millers, warehouse operators, grain traders, agricultural institutions, agro chemical dealers, agro machinery companies, financial institutions, civil society organization with a focus on Post Harvest Loss Management.
The Agribusiness Expo will be held at the Kabarak University Grounds on the 14th and 15th August 2014. The theme of this year’s event is Promoting post harvest technologies; improving the quality, safety and marketability of farm produce.
The Agribusiness Expo allows participants to see, learn and change, their farming systems, in order to reap the benefits of Agribusiness. The Expo also creates a market in which the exhibitors can show case their products, new innovations and technologies to existing and potential customers.
EAGC will also be providing farmer sensitization and training in post harvest handling, grain quality and standards, grading, and warehouse financing. In the process EAGC has equipped farmer groups with tarpaulins, moisture meters, proper storage bags, sieves and weighing scales in an effort to reduce the post harvest losses hence, improve grain quality, farmer incomes and in the long run better their standards of living.
Post Harvest Losses.
One of the major challenges facing the agricultural sector in the Africa and in particular Eastern Africa is the high levels of post harvest losses and this threatens the food security efforts in the region. Small scale farmers lose large volumes of their grains as a result of poor harvesting methods, lack of the right materials and equipment for drying, sorting, cleaning, grading, weighing and storage. Hence, the theme of this year’s Agribusiness Expo is “Promoting Post Harvest Technologies; Improving the quality, safety and marketability of farm produce”, intends to provide solutions to all stakeholders.
Recent reports on Kenya show that Kenya Losses over Kshs 50 Million annually from post harvest losses. Regionally, the post harvest losses are estimated at US$1.6 billion per year, or about 13.5 percent of the total value of grain production (US$11 billion). This is nearly equivalent to the total food aid received annually in this region. These losses represent 40-60% per cent of food produced extensively is incurred due to poor logistics between the farm and the collection points.
The EAGC Agribusiness Expo, seeks to translate the Kshs 50 Million lost in post harvest losses, to real cash into farmers pockets says Gerald Masila, EAGC Executive Director.
Post harvest losses remain critical. For example, the post harvest loss in Sorghum currently remains very high in Kenya. Most of the farmers planted sorghum with a view of selling to the East Africa Breweries. However, EABL is set to terminate supply contracts with at least 20,000 sorghum farmers, due to the low sale of the Senator Keg beer. The brewer currently holds over 13,000 tonnes of sorghum, the main raw material used in production of the Senator Keg due to the VAT amendment during the last budget. Such policy actions normally affect farming as a business, which in turn leads to very high post harvest losses.
Post harvest losses are also likely to remain high, on Agricultural Machinery. This is due to the recent amendment of the farm machinery VAT from Zero Rated to Exemption. As a result the proprietors are not allowed to claim VAT, thus increasing the price of machinery. Local Manufacturers in Kenya have lamented that “There is no level playing field since Imported agricultural machinery enjoy duty and VAT free status while locally assembled machinery are subjected to duty and VAT on all materials used in the manufacturing process.
This leads to high cost of farm machinery and post harvest loss management technologies, which in turn therefore leads to high post harvest losses, since most of the farmers cannot afford the technologies.
EAGC Solutions to Post Harvest Loss
EAGC and its private sector members and partners have been instrumental in promoting the uptake of post harvest loss reducing technologies. This has mainly been through shifting the focus from the farm level practises but to the provision of markets and trade facilitations in order to manage the post harvest elements.
This has been done through support to farmers support collection and aggregation centres, common storage and common marketing mechanisms, provision of post harvest equipments, provision on alternative market instruments such as warehouse house receipt systems, better marketing information and awareness for decision making. EAGC basis its interventions based on the premise that with improved markets and market information, this would reduce the need for storage at farm level thereby reducing post harvest losses.
A predictable price policy would support investments in off farm storage, potentially providing drying and storage services for the farmers. Better roads, better access to electricity and lower transport costs would allow for local drying and processing
Based on these interventions, EAGC has achieved tremendous results in post harvest management. Notably the number of certified warehouse to support post harvest storage increased to ten, with a total capacity of 33,705 Metric Tonnes (MT). Subsequently, the estimated value of grain deposited in these warehouses throughout the year was US$ 4.3 million; and the amount of lending under the Warehouse Receipt System grew to US$ 104, 436, in 2013. In addition, the RATIN demand for access to marketing information increased with users increasing to over 9 Million hits by July 2014.
EAGC and its partners are therefore calling on the Government to provide a clear enabling environment to go concurrently with the investments made by the sector.
EAGC calls on the Government to put in place a consultative process with both the buyers and sellers in order to support farmers in the Sorghum Industry
EAGC urges the Government to hasten the provision of road networks to move commodity from farm to markets.
In addition, EAGC requests the acceleration of rural and urban electrification to support post harvest loss equipments, better policies, better price stabilization and trainings to farmers on how best to mitigate the threats on post harvest losses.
EAGC is also calling on the Government to partner with the private sector in provision of financial and credit support to farmers in order to support in access of the post harvest technologies, which is likely to translate to over Kshs 1 Billion in return to the national budget and profitability to farmers.