Wednesday January 22 2014

Sustaining crop quality after harvest

By Ssali Micheal

Whatever is produced on the farm should be of good quality and attractive to the consumers. Sustaining the quality of farm products is one of the greatest challenges of farming. Many of the items are for the farmers’ own consumption and they do not want them to go bad.
Some crop losses occur in the field during harvesting while other losses take place in the home due to storage issues after harvest.
For many of our crops, like coffee, the harvest season is also the rainy season.

The farmer is expected to dry the crop by spreading it out on mats under the sun but since coffee ripens during the rainy season (December or May), the farmers tend to have storage issues and the crop may malt unless the farmer has a large store where the coffee can be spread out to dry without direct sunlight.
Sun drying is most common crop preservation processes available to most farmers but when the crop is spread out on the bare ground it gets exposed to contamination. For farmers who cannot purchase tarpaulin or plastic sheets it is advisable to use locally made mats and carpets.

To the market
The crops preserved by drying include cassava, coffee, cereals, grains, and legumes. The process reduces the moisture content to safe and acceptable levels for storage and marketing.

In their groups, farmers may buy moisture meters to be sure how dry their crops are as most traders attach importance to moisture levels before buying the crop.
Some crops like vegetables and fruits get damaged during transportation or just get rotten if there are delays before they get to the market. The farmers have to ensure that there are lining materials on the sides of the trucks where crops like bananas are to be transported.

Passengers or heavy objects sitting on the crops on the truck may damage them. Fresh perishable crops like tomatoes should be transported in crates. The trucks used to transport such crops should be in good mechanical condition and should never be overloaded to avoid possible break down and accidents on the road, which cause unnecessary delays.