How to reduce losses on the way to the market

Wednesday February 25 2015

By Michael J. Ssali

If agricultural production in Africa is low in comparison to other parts of the world, one of the main causes of the problem is the way we transport products from the farm to their desired destination.
According to some estimates, losses of perishable produce such as potatoes, fruits and vegetables during transport may be as high as 50 per cent.
Such losses keep many farmers in perpetual poverty and contribute to food insecurity in the country.
Physical damage is made on the bananas, the oranges, and on vegetables like cabbages as they rub against each other due to impact and vibration from a truck or bicycle on the way to the market.

Mechanical damage on the fruits may cause rotting, disfigurement, and bad appearance. This will render them unattractive and unfit for human consumption.
Impact and vibrations are higher when the roads are bumpy and in bad shape. Sometimes, the vehicles used by farmers to transport the produce are in poor mechanical condition and may break down on the way loaded with fresh and perishable produce.
If the roads are muddy and slippery, the trucks get stuck for days. Transport delays often cause produce such as green bananas to ripen before they get to the market. If the roads are dusty, the dust may settle on the crops and make them look unattractive to the buyers.

Protect produce
Transporting produce such as tomatoes in wooden or plastic crates reduces damage from impact and vibrational forces.
When extra cargo such as iron bars or bags of cement are placed on top of fresh and perishable produce on a truck the chances of physical damage are increased. No passengers should be carried on top of trucks loaded with fresh produce to avoid exerting force on them.
During loading and offloading, maximum care must be exercised to avoid stepping on the produce.
It is important to protect all agricultural produce carried on the truck with tarpaulin, polythene sheets or other such material to protect it from sunlight, rain and dust.
Dry cereal produce such as maize and beans will be greatly damaged by rain if no covering material is used to protect them while on the truck.