Airtight bags save farmers post-harvest storage losses

 Maize stored in gunny bags. New airtight bags will store grains without the need for chemical preservatives. FILE
Maize stored in gunny bags. New airtight bags will store grains without the need for chemical preservatives. FILE 

Cereals farmers are set to cut post-harvest losses with new airtight bags designed to store grains without the need for chemicals.

The bags are made of two layers of polythene material surrounded by another third layer of woven nylon, a combination that makes them airtight, making it impossible for pests to survive inside.

Kenyan farmers are estimated to lose between 30 and 40 per cent of their harvest to pets and other post-harvest rodents every year.

Jean Njiru, the national sales manager for Bell Industries which is marketing the storage bags in Kenya, says they will be initially launched in Central, Eastern and South Rift regions.

The 50 and 100 kilogramme bags are selling at Sh200 and Sh250 a piece respectively.

The bags, known as Purdue Improved Crop Storage (Pics), were made by Purdue University of the United States.

They were first introduced in West Africa where over two million farmers embraced them between 2007 and 2012.

In a recent interview in Eldoret, Professor Dieudonné Baributsa of Purdue University’s department of research and extension said the technology eliminates need for chemicals preservatives thereby addressing consumers’ fears of contamination.

“One is able to draw out the harvest whenever and consume it directly without taking into consideration health aspects brought forth by chemical storage,” said Mr Baributsa.

The bags yield an oxygen-deprived environment, only allowing slight amounts of oxygen for the cereals to breathe yet not enough for boring pests to survive.

“Even in the event that an insect finds itself in the bag, it cannot survive long enough as there’s gradual reduction of oxygen yet the walls are not porous to allow any air inside,” added Mr Baributsa.

Farmers are required to dry the harvest to 12-14 per cent moisture content and tightly seal the bag to avoid aflatoxin contamination.

The users are also supposed to make sure the bag is free from rodents which may tear the bags. The bags are also not supposed to lean against walls to avoid termite infestation.