New storage bag innovation to reduce post harvest losses

Bell Industries sales manager Samwel Kipyego
Bell Industries sales manager Samwel Kipyego demonstrates how the bag works. PHOTO | MORAA OBIRIA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

Grain farmers in Nakuru County have begun to adopt use of a special storage bag to minimise post-harvest losses. The Purdue Improved Crop Storage bag sold by Bell Industries Limited provides the grain farmers a simple and low-cost mechanism of protecting their produce from pests.

Unlike dusting of the grains with pesticides or use of traditional remedies such as ash before storage in normal bags or metal silos, neither of these is needed with use of Purdue Improved Crop Storage bags.

Bell Industries sales manager Samwel Kipyego said that more than 1,000 farmers have bought the bag since they introduced it into the market in December last year.

“Farmers from Subukia, Gilgil, Naivasha and Molo are among those who have bought the bag,” he said. “We’re doing rigorous sensitisation of the importance of the bag among the small-scale farmers so that many of them are aware and can use it.”

The bag which goes for Sh250 is made of two layers of thermoplastic lining with an outer woven bag cover that create unfavourable living environment for grain pests like weevil. In case weevil attacks the produce before storage, Mr Kipyego said, it would die within 48 hours due to the limited oxygen.

“However, farmers must ensure that the grains are very clean and free from any pests before storage,” he said. If kept away from water and rodents like rats, he said, the improved bag, can hold grains for more than a year.

Maize, beans, wheat, peanuts and pigeon pea are among the crops whose produce are suitable for storage in the bag. “While farmers are not supposed to add any chemicals to kill or keep off the weevils, they must ensure that where they store the bags is free from rats to avoid tearing them,” he said.

“The bags must also be kept away from  any dampness.”

To eliminate any excess oxygen, each of the lining is tied separately. “This ensures that the oxygen remaining is less than five per cent which is only enough to support the maize produce,” he explained.

Before storage of maize, farmers must dry the produce to achieve moisture content of 12 per cent to avoid rotting. Drying aims to prevent post-harvest losses due to rotting.

Mr Kipyego said the firm is working with the Ministry of Agriculture to market the bags and educate farmers on the significant of using the cost-efficient cereal storage technology.

Ministry of Agriculture marketing and agribusiness officer Dorothy Ogolla said unlike use of the improved bags “chemicals are expensive and harmful if the farmers fail to follow instructions properly”.