Promoting Steel Drum Technology

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Oluchi Chibuzor, in this report writes that the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute’s free distribution of 100 hermetic drums will significantly reduce post-harvest losses in the country

With post-harvest losses in the country currently estimated at about N3.4 trillion based on the statistic released by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Nigeria’s drive at meeting key international treaties like Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 3 across the country is hinged on efforts directly aimed at tackling food security.

Post-harvest loss, which is seriously affected by climate change and other associated factors, contributes to food insecurity and reduces the income of smallholder farmers and processors as for about 20 per cent loss for grain, 20 per cent for fish and 50 to 60 per cent for vegetable, fruits, tuber respectively.

Factors such as, but not limited to lack of access to basic logistics facilities or services, such as transport, packing materials, storage solutions, access to markets particularly during wet and dry seasons as well as limited knowledge around post-harvest loss reduction practices, experts have identified as the main reasons why rural farmers in Nigeria suffer from low outputs.

In an attempt to preserve their agro-produce or household items, smallholder farmers often times result in unwholesome methods like using dangerous chemicals that are life threatening with further enhanced possibility of food poisoning within households.
Disturbed by the enormous difficulties faced by households in the country and the challenge in reducing post-harvest losses at a sustainable cost for smallholder farmers, NSPRI commenced the research about the use of hermetic steel drums for storage of dried food.

According to FAO, a reduction of food losses will not only benefit farmers’ income and improve food security, it will also lead to strong environmental benefits on various national levels and various impact areas.
Along with improving environmental performance, investing in getting more of the final product in better quality to the consumer is vital to ensure a higher food and nutrition security.

The UN body also stated that in terms of improving food security and nutrition, loss and waste reduction can have the greatest impact if done at early stages in the supply chain, especially on the farm.
By reducing on-farm losses, farmers could improve their diets due to increased food availability and higher incomes from increased sales.

This can also boost supplies, reduce food prices throughout the supply chain and improve access to food among vulnerable population groups. Such strategies are likely to be particularly effective in lower-income countries with high rates of food insecurity and levels of food loss, especially at the farm stage.

The result of this hard work and the zeal of its management led it to substantially collaborate with the private sector to help mitigate the losses incurred by households across the country and thereby helping to further reduce poverty and food wastage.

With many of Nigerian small holders watching their hard earned produce depreciate or rot in value due to lack of adequate technology to enhance the economic value of the produce, has over the time caused the country to constantly depend on importing food from other nations to augment the deficit in food production.

Meeting National Strategic Mandates
Public strategies to reduce food loss and waste must be carefully designed in order to effectively provide benefits such as improving food security and environmental sustainability experts have proffered as the best way to go.

Recognising this, the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute, one of the Research Institutes under the supervision of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has recognised its strategic position in the entire agro-value chain in Nigeria.

The Institute was established in 1948 as West African Stored Products Research Unit (WASPRU) during the colonial era of the country to assess the quality of exportable crops from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia to the United Kingdom. It became Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute after independence in 1960. Since the inception of the Institute, it has been supervised by different Ministries.

The mandate of the Institute stipulates that it shall carry out research into bulk storage problems of export commodities and local food crops and in particular it shall conduct research into: improvement and maintenance of the quality of bulk commodity crops including cocoa, groundnuts, and palm produce.

Also, improvement and maintenance of the quality of local food crops including cereals, grains, pulses, tubers and any other local commodity under bulk storage; special studies such as stored products pests, pesticide formulations and residue and mycotoxin surveys; provision of advice and training of extension workers in problems associated with stored products and materials in storage structures, new insecticides, new items of equipment and techniques; and any other related matters as may be determined from time to time by the Institute.

In a bid to reduce postharvest losses and improve the quality of food across the country, the NSPRI has commenced the use of hermetic steel drums for the storage of dried durable products.
The agency which aims to reduce postharvest losses by ensuring quality, safety and availability of agricultural produce rolled out the first batch of steel drums to farmers across Nigeria recently.

Hermetic Steel Drum Technology
Hermetic Storage is a method of using sealed, airtight units to control moisture and insects in the storage of dried agricultural commodities. The hermetic storage restricts gas exchanges between the internal and external environments and the stored commodity, maintaining the initial levels of moisture and controlling pests by the lack of oxygen.
The available oxygen in the internal ecosystem is reduced to lethal or limiting the respiration of any living organism within the system.

The hermetic steel drums which were sourced from the first and only UN Certified steel drum factory in Nigeria, Pacegate Limited – a subsidiary of Hana Group and Manufacturer of steel drums, have been built tested and certified to carry agricultural produce with no leakages.

In addition, the drums are environmentally friendly and have been incorporated with anti-rust and coated with food grade lacquer which protects it from rust and enhances food safety.

Speaking at the official launch of the drum and donation to selected recipients in the various geopolitical zones through State’s Agricultural Development Programmes (ADP), the Executive Director NSPRI, Dr. Patricia Pessu said, “post-harvest value chain is important in ensuring food safety and security in Nigeria, especially with respect to properly dried staple agricultural commodities.”

She also said that, “preservation of these commodities like grains, dried products from yam, cassava, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, fishery, meat, etc, from season of surplus using appropriate and safe storage practice will benefit all actors along the value chain (farmers, processors, marketers, traders, transporters, consumers) in terms of monetary, health and protect agricultural economic values of the country.

“One of the technologies developed and popularised by NSPRI for non-chemical preservation and safe handling of these durable products is the NSPRI Hermetic Steel Drum produced by Pacegate Limited.”

Also commenting, Managing Director, Pacegate Limited, Mr. Umesh Amarnani said, “players in the agricultural industry should adopt modern techniques and take advantage of local technology in line with global standards that will not only increase yield but also protect our health and environment.

“Our steel drums are safe, reliable, cost-effective and sustainable and designed to provide efficient storage of dried agricultural produce. I commend the NSPRI for taking the initiative to sensitise stakeholders in the agricultural value chain on the immense benefits of steel drums.”

With the use of hermetic steel drums, dried agricultural commodities such as grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, fisheries and livestock can be effectively stored while reducing the impact of pesticides and aflatoxin contaminations.

Other benefits of using hermetic steel drums for storage includes eliminating the fear of damage by stored product pests like insects and rodents thereby assuring food safety and protecting economic value of the products and no requirement of the use of chemicals, thereby eliminating the possibility of food poisoning and additional costs that may have been incurred as a result of use chemicals.

Other benefits the drum would bring local users includes the ability to use it to store multiple crops at the same time and stored products can be consumed whenever the need arises, as the hermetic drum has a lifespan of over 30 years with a payback period of less than three years.

The technology is fire and waterproof, gender friendly and easy to use with relatively low maintenance. The drum is robust and can be transported with no damage, retaining their airtightness

Private Partnership Model
Pacegate Limited a Pan-African B2B distributor of Specialty Chemicals as well as a manufacturer of steel drums is based in Lagos.

Pacegate as part of the Hana Group with interests across diverse industry sectors such as plastics manufacturing, household products and construction material trading.

The group which has been operating in Nigeria since 1979 with its steel drum factory located in its 20,000sqm premises is one of Africa’s largest fully automated plant with a capacity to produce 5000 steel drums per a day.
With the initiative, post-harvest losses at households would be reduced by five to 10 per cent, while 25 per cent of the 40 per cent recorded in the agricultural value chain.

Meanwhile, giving an overview of the partnership that lead to the technological breakthrough, Director, Research Operations, NSPRI, Dr. Folorunsho Olayemi revealed that as part of the launch of the product, the institute was giving out 100 to selected recipients to encourage the easy adoption of the technology in the country.

On his part, the Executive Secretary, ARCN, Garba Sharubutu, welcomed the initiative, while appreciating the management of NSPRI, “Our farmers, traders and those that want to store their product will do so with confidence now.” he stated.

Similarly, the President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, who pledged to work with the team, called for more cost-effective pricing modalities.