LAHORE: Focus on developing an efficient storage system can help Pakistan save up to $1.3 billion annually in post-harvest losses as inadequate storage facilities are the primary reason for losses in staple commodities.

Pakistan produces approximately 27 million tons of wheat per annum which is valued at US 7.4 billion dollars. However, the country has less than 6 million tons of storage capacity, which means that the remaining quantity of wheat is stored under unregulated conditions leading to a minimum 10% loss of the remaining commodity which is accounted for $ 740 million.

“If this grain is saved, it is enough to feed the population of Karachi and Lahore,” claimed Asia Pacific Seed Association (APSA) Executive Member Farhan Tahir while talking to Business Recorder here on Wednesday.

Farhan said that all efforts were being made to increase per acre yield but there was no focus on saving whatever we were already producing. Farmers could not hold their yield for even two months and they were not getting the due price of their commodities due to it. Corn is an example; Pakistan was having per acre yield at par with the US but prices crashes when harvest comes to the causing losses to the growers.

He said that climate change was also a big threat to the country and warrants that efficient storage systems should be adopted. He said monsoon season had spread from earlier three weeks to six weeks and torrential and erratic rains were a big threat to stored grains. He said recent floods had caused severe damage to our wheat which was mostly stored in “Ganjis” in open areas.

Due to high infestation, excessive use of phosphine tablets as fumigants by farmers is poisonous in nature and has been a leading cause of health issues such as Anemia and diarrhoea specifically for women in Pakistan. If the farmers were able to store their commodity for an additional two-to-three-month they can enhance their income by 20-40%. Moreover, a saving of 15-20% on post-harvest losses can decrease the cost of production for end consumers considerably, he added.

Farhan, who is the Director of a leading Pakistani agricultural company dealing in various farming solutions including seed and storage, said that “hermetic” technology developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) along with the University of Hohenheim works on the principles of the airtight jar and the best solution to these problems.

Hermetic properties allow no exchange of moisture or any gases from the ambient environment. This creates a high CO2 and low oxygen environment which prevents life inside the hermetic cocoon without any use of chemicals and allows storing commodities organically for up to 12 years consistently. The condition of the commodities in the cocoons can be monitored remotely from anywhere using a smartphone, he added

He said that they had already launched this project in Okara and Chiniot. The cocoons were placed in the open field and were installed with sensors and humidity meters for monitoring carbon dioxide and humidity levels in the grains through a mobile application.

Farhan said that they were renting out this hermetic cocoon to farmers but the government should come into the field and ask Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (Passco) and provincial Food departments to adopt this technology and save their stored grains. He said they were already in talks with the Punjab food department for the spread of this technology.

“The government should also extend interest-free loans to farmers so as they can adopt this technology to build an organic and efficient storage for their own besides opting for various other technologies to save the grain produced after hard labour,” Farhan concluded.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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