Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN) under the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, has taken its campaign on promoting the adoption of Returnable Plastic Crates for handling fresh fruits and vegetables to Idera Model market Agege and Oyingbo market, Ebute Metta in Lagos State.
This was aimed at reducing loss associated with the use of weaved raffia baskets in the transportation and storage of farm produce in the country. PLAN said they would equally educate traders on the advantages of using the returnable plastic crates over weaved raffia baskets.
Also, the PLAN campaign is targeted at educating traders on the need to ensure that perishable produce obtained in the state could compete favourably in the international market to bring about conformity to international standards in view of the mega city status attained by Lagos State through the use of approved plastic crates as containers for carriage of perishable agricultural produce.
Speaking at the event, Director Agric Services, Lagos State, Mrs. Ayoade Abiola who was represented by the State Project Officer for Produce Vehicles/ Crate Project Adegboyega Adebisi said the commonly used weaved raffia basket was considered unsafe and did not conform to standards, in that the material (raffia/palm fronds) was believed to harbor pathogens which bring about microbial contamination that caused illnesses related to fresh produce consumption by humans.
He maintained that the sensitisation program was held in conjunction with the Union of Perishable Farm Produce Traders of Lagos State and the PLAN Project by Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).
He noted that the raffia baskets usually lead to spoilages due to compression and the baskets were not easily weighable/scale-able and could only be used once, while the plastic crates was highly durable and toughened with appropriate perforations/openings on all sides and grooves at the top and bottom to discourage direct contact of items when stacked on each other, adding that the plastic crates were washable and reusable.
He assured the traders that plastic crates would be produced in large quantities and according to the specifications of the traders.
Also speaking at the PLAN crate sensitisation event, Dr. Augustine Okoruwa the Senior Project Manager PLAN who was represented by Ayodele Tella said â€œWe are trying to promote the use of returnable plastic crates for handling fresh fruits and vegetables in place of the weaved basket that has been used over the past decades in Nigeria. It has been identified that there is significant postharvest loss along these value chain and we have identified packaging as one of the causative factors for high prevalent losses. We have also identified lack of processing in the value chain.
â€œThis market sensitization is focusing on the use of plastic crates and we are supporting Lagos State to educate the traders on the advantages of using the returnable plastic crates over weaved raffia baskets. So far, it has been successful. We started in early June and have been to other markets in Lagos State including Mile 12 (Ketu) market, Oke- Odo (Araromi) market, Owodunni (Ikorodu) market with many others to followâ€ she stated.
According to Tella, PLAN is supporting the Lagos State government in this movement because it is part of their mission as well. It is under the scope of work of PLAN. We are working with crating development, crating packaging and processing. We are trying to develop businesses along that value chain in terms of technology and access to funding.
While speaking during the campaign at the Oyingbo market, she noted that so far the reaction of the market women and men have been positive towards the use of plastic crates. In Oyingbo and the rest of the markets visited, â€œtheir only concern was on the initial cost and the major reaction that cuts across all the markets visited is the specification of the basketsâ€.
â€œFor those into the tomatoes business, the present rectangular shape seems to be in line with what they are doing. There would be further meetings with the Plastic manufactures. Five to six of them have been identified by PLAN, these plastic manufactures will sit with these traders to get their preference. I am satisfied with todayâ€™s outing and from the observations some of the traders are already using the plastic crates.
Â â€œAn individual may not have the financial strength to buy a thousand or three thousand crates but the association can provide the service as a lending and leasing service to the members or a market woman with the capacity can buy certain quantity of crates, buy and lend on daily basis. We know that in the shortest period of time, it would be a popular thing. We urge them to give it a trialâ€.
â€œOn the side of the manufactures, this is business, they have to take it upon themselves in this campaign, in an innovative and creative way, they have to be more proactive and participate in this campaign alongside PLAN and the Lagos State government and any other partner that is ready to go out with themâ€ she urged.
The traders however, expressed satisfaction with the new development, urging the Lagos state government to ensure that the plastic crates are sold to them at a reduced rate.