Aside the wrongful application of chemicals at the planting stage, there is an increasing misuse of chemicals in food storage in the country, and the health implications could be severe if the government does not step in with stringent measures, a stakeholder engagement has revealed.
Whilst some farmers use unapproved chemicals to store cereals and grains and other food items, others send produce to the market when the chemicals used in storage are still very potent in them, Eric Banye, Country Programme Coordinator of SNV of the Netherlands Development Organisation, said.
“Increasingly, farmers are using a lot of unapproved chemicals in storing food,” he told the B&FT at a National Policy Dialogue on Post-Harvest Losses and Food and Nutrition Security, organised by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), under the SNV Voice for Change project (V4CP).
“When they use these chemicals, nobody knows when it will get to the market, so you and I buy foot stuff from the market without any clue about what has been used in storing it,” he said.
“Sometimes, these chemicals are approved but there is a time frame within which this chemical is used to store food before consumption, but farmers are not able to wait until that time period.
So, what they do is that before that time - the expiration of the chemical, they still send the produce to the market because nobody is taking control. And you and I innocently will buy and this is causing a lot of health hazards. So, we urgently need to tackle that component.”
Mr. Banye added that it was important for the government to take a keener interest in the food storage value chain, especially as it embarks on increasing production through the ‘Planting for food and jobs’ initiative.
“They are putting in a lot of emphasis on production, but the next step is: how do we store what we are producing?
There are a lot of losses in the value chain, but the greatest loss is at the storage level; storage of grains, cereals, vegetables; that is where the biggest problem is. So, we need to address that,” he said.
There are instances where grains record over 30 percent loss, he said, adding that the cumulative loss over a period of time, from harvest to transport and storage, results in almost 60 to 70 percent of food going waste in the country.
“So, before the produce gets to the market, the farmer has lost almost everything.”
The five-year SNV Voice for Change project forms part of efforts to empower civil society organisations (CSOs) to play an active role in creating awareness in the area of food and nutrition security as well as post-harvest losses and planning processes.
The project begun last year and is been sponsored by SNV of the Netherlands.
Currently, it is estimated that the country losses more than GH¢700,000 annually through post-harvest losses and that almost half of food crops produced in the country does not make it to the final consumer.
Apart from this, lack of storage facilities or infrastructure and bad storage practices also pose health challenges, as a significant volume of food gets to the final consumer after having lost about half of its nutritional value.
This, according to the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, is very worrying. The situation, it argued, requires drastic but deliberate measures to cushion food security and nutrition in the country.
“A significant volume of food, especially grains, is lost after harvest, thereby aggravating hunger, and resulting in expensive inputs subsidised by government being wasted,” said Victoria Adongo, Programme Coordinator of PFAG.
If properly handled, Madam Adongo believes that proper post-harvest practices can help curb volatile food prices and improve food security and nutrition in the country.