Kenya is placing a big bet on hermetic storage bags, one of the oldest forms of food preservation in the world, to reduce post-harvest losses which claim up to 30 per cent of annual maize production.
Hermetic bags are designed to insulate cereals from heat, air and moisture.
The airtight bags deplete oxygen, thereby getting rid of insects without use of pesticides.
Data produced by the United States International Agency (USAID) shows about 1.5 million hermetic bags had been sold in Kenya by end of 2017 following a nationwide campaign by agriculture ministry to popularise the bags among small scale farmers.
Small scale farmers account for 80 per cent of the annual maize production in Kenya.
Regional lobby the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC), says it has joined hands with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to develop standards.
“The reusable bags are fast spreading among smallholder farmers, and, if unregulated, through developing the necessary standards, unscrupulous business people could dump sub-standard materials and pass them on as hermetic storage solutions,” said EAGC executive director Gerald Masila.
Mass adoption of the bags is expected to cut post-harvest losses estimated to up to 11 million bags valued at Sh33.5 billion every year.
Mr Masila, however, reckons that the standards development process, which has been divided into five phases, will stretch over 18 months to end by June next year.
A technical committee has already been set up with Kebs taking the secretary position, Mr Masila said, adding that technically competent individuals would be co-opted into the team as required by law.
The search for standards will begin with market survey on availability of the bags followed by an open public participation forums, gathering evidence of efficacy, deciding on terms and condition of use, and finally user education.
It is due to its simplicity, cost effectiveness and environmental friendliness that governments in the region have teamed up with groups such as USAID and EAGC to promote its uptake, says Tanzanian trade policy analyst Kimwaga Mhando.
Other organisations pushing of its use are Tegemeo Institute, East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Food and Agricultural Organisation and the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organisation and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis.