Farmer’s diary : Guarding against food spoilage

Wednesday June 5 2013

By Michael J. Ssali

The struggle to achieve food security must involve measures to guard food items from spoilage. It is one thing to produce food and another to store and preserve it for eating or selling afterwards when we need to do so.
We must guard against food spoilage right from the time of when crops mature, through to harvesting, transportation, drying and storage.

A 2012 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states that about 1.3 billion tonnes or a third of the food produced globally every year is lost or wasted.
Food loss occurs during harvesting, processing and distribution while food waste takes place mostly at the hands of retailers and consumers.
When it is mature in the garden, it may be attacked by wild birds and rodents or even stolen. Putting scarecrows in the garden may scare away the birds but it might not be effective in keeping off rodents.

Safeguard food
Household animals such as goats or chicken may eat or contaminate food crops spread out in the yard to dry. The farmer must constantly be on the look out to ensure timely harvesting and to safeguard the food throughout the post-harvesting process.
Mouse traps, poisoning and clearing the bush around the home will keep away rats.

Pests such as weevils may spoil the food during storage while micro-organisms may cause rotting of some food. It helps to keep food such as grain in tightly covered containers to deny pests sufficient oxygen to breathe and to keep fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, milk, meat or fish under refrigeration.

All grain should be thoroughly dried to minimise moisture content. Drying food crops on bare ground leads to contamination and prudent farmers use mats and tarpaulin. Careful application of pesticides on stored grain greatly reduces the losses.

Agriculturalists can provide guidance on pesticide application but most of them come with leaflets that offer instructions about their use.

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Delicate food items such as tomatoes, eggs, and fruits should be transported in crates so that they do not break. Any form of carelessness that makes food unfit for human consumption must be avoided.

ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

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