Con­trol­ling post-har­vest losses through adopted tech­niques

Sunday Trust - - AGRIC BUSINESS - From Hope Abah Em­manuel, Makurdi

Over the years, farm­ers in Benue State suf­fered posthar­vest losses of nearly all the food crops they pro­duced such that many of them be­came poorer and un­able to gen­er­ate in­come to sus­tain their fam­i­lies.

The wor­ry­ing trend, per­haps, mo­ti­vated the Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil of the Benue State Univer­sity (BSU), Makurdi, to, in June 2014, ap­prove the es­tab­lish­ment of the Cen­tre for Food Tech­nol­ogy and Re­search, African Cen­tre (CEFTER) for con­trol of posthar­vest losses.

Though the aim for the cen­tre, among other things, is to empower African re­searchers to iden­tify tech­nolo­gies that will re­duce post-har­vest losses, the host state will ben­e­fit im­mensely from the in­sti­tu­tion to en­able it re­tain its rider as the “Food Bas­ket of the Na­tion.”

Con­se­quently, CEFTER, in the past three years has or­gan­ised Food Week and Ex­hi­bi­tion at the univer­sity cam­pus in Makurdi to show­case the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies through ap­plied re­search for re­duc­ing posthar­vest losses and en­gage­ment with com­mu­ni­ties, farm­ers and in­dus­tries in the dis­sem­i­na­tion of th­ese tech­nolo­gies.

This year, the cen­tre ven­tured into com­mer­cial re­search de­vel­op­ment of home-grown food prod­ucts such as cas­sava, yam, rice, pep­per, soy­bean, beniseed, fish, wa­ter­melon, or­ange, tomato, corn and sweet potato.

Head of the cen­ter, Prof. Daniel Adezwa, noted that the prod­ucts ex­hib­ited last year sur­passed that of 2016 which con­sisted of 77 food prod­ucts.

Prof. Adezwa ex­plained that the food va­ri­eties were pro­duced us­ing crops by stu­dents of dif­fer­ent de­part­ments at the cen­tre, adding that the Food Week was a stu­dents’ ac­tiv­ity al­lied at ex­pos­ing them to prac­ti­cal prob­lem solv­ing tar­get­ing de­vel­op­ment of prod­ucts from com­mon crops.

“In the 2017 out­ing, 139 PGD, MSc and PhD stu­dents were grouped into 10 and as­signed food crops to study and de­velop prod­ucts that will add value and re­duce post-har­vest losses. It is ex­pected that most of the adopted tech­niques can be ex­tended to farm­ers and food han­dlers for use to en­hance their out­put,” Adezwa added.

At the 2018 ex­hi­bi­tion held at the week­end, Deputy Leader of the Cen­tre (Op­er­a­tions), Dr. Barn­abas Ikyo, re­marked that this year’s event was slightly dif­fer­ent from what was done in the past two years.

Dr. Ikyo em­pha­sised that the prod­ucts met in­ter­na­tional best stan­dards just as the cen­tre con­tin­ued to pur­sue the de­vel­op­ment of a crit­i­cal mass of well-trained Africans that would be able to im­ple­ment the post-har­vest con­trol agenda in the re­gion, cov­er­ing se­lected agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion ser­vices and food sciences.

He said, “we took a step fur­ther on how sus­tain­able, re­li­able and valu­able the food process could be. We will en­sure we have ca­pac­ity for mass pro­duc­tion of the food prod­ucts ex­hib­ited to­day.”

The cen­tre, in 2017, ex­hib­ited 140 prod­ucts from dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of crops grown in the state and the items were dis­played on the univer­sity cam­pus as part of ac­tiv­i­ties to mark the Food Week and Ex­hi­bi­tion.

In the 2018 out­ing, 137 PGD, MSc and PhD stu­dents were grouped into 12 and as­signed food crops to study and de­velop prod­ucts that would add value and re­duce post-har­vest losses.

The Man­ager of the Tech­nol­ogy In­cu­ba­tion Cen­tre (TIC), Makurdi, Terseer Uke, said the univer­sity needed to part­ner with TIC to help the cen­tre make fur­ther progress for com­mer­cial pur­pose as the prod­ucts would fo­cus on food in­cu­ba­tors.

He stressed that the food prod­ucts dis­played could be used for the home-grown school feed­ing pro­gramme in Benue at a re­duced cost to save the gov­ern­ment more money.

The food groups dis­played their star prod­ucts and other de­riv­a­tives.

Ex­am­ple, the pep­per group dis­played pep­per jam, cook­ies, ketchup, pep­per spray (used to make tear gas), pep­per paste, pep­per balm, among oth­ers, while the yam group dis­played yam fruit cake as its star prod­uct with other prod­ucts from yam such as yam chips and yam cakes.

The rice group dis­played dough­nut, masa, yo­ghurt, noo­dles and flour, while the soy­bean group pre­sented spaghetti, yo­ghurt, oil, cake, milk, cook­ies, spices and may­on­naise.

The fish group dis­played fish bar­be­cue, fish spices, fish oil, cook­ies, crispy but­ter and cakes and the beniseed group dis­played candy, oil, may­on­naise, yo­ghurt, chin-chin, among oth­ers.

Ear­lier, BSU Vice Chan­cel­lor, Prof. Msugh Kembe, com­mended the cen­tre for putting the univer­sity on the global map, not­ing that the value ad­di­tion to crops would re­duce to the barest min­i­mum post-har­vest losses and there­fore called on NAFDAC to fa­cil­i­tate the process of reg­is­ter­ing the prod­ucts.

Mean­while, other speak­ers from the Ex­port Coun­cil, the Bank of In­dus­try and the So­cial In­vest­ment Pro­gramme praised the abil­ity of the stu­dents to pro­duce va­ri­eties of food items us­ing just one crop.

A stand at the event

Pack­aged food at the event

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