ECONOMICS OF POST-HARVEST MAIZE GRAIN LOSSES IN TRANS NZOIA AND UASIN GISHU DISTRICTS OF NORTHWEST KENYA

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1 ECONOMICS OF POST-HARVEST MAIZE GRAIN LOSSES IN TRANS NZOIA AND UASIN GISHU DISTRICTS OF NORTHWEST KENYA Komen J.J., C.M. Mutoko, J.M. Wanyama, S.C. Rono and L.O. Mose 1 KARI Kitale, P.O. Box , Kitale 1 KARI HQTS, P.O. Box 57811, Nairobi. Abstract Maize (Zea mays) grain losses contribute to food insecurity and low farm incomes not only in Kenya, but also in Sub-Saharan African countries (Compton, 1992; Azu, 2002; Republic of Kenya, 2004). Therefore, efficient post harvest handling, storage and marketing can tremendously contribute to social economic aspects of rural communities in Kenya as stipulated in Vision 2030 (Republic of Kenya, 2007). The losses are directly measurable in economic, quantitative, qualitative, (nutritional) terms. The objectives of the study were to 1) assess the extent of maize grain post-harvest losses; 2) establish effectiveness of existing post harvest maize grain management strategies and 3) evaluate economic losses due to maize grain post harvest wastages. It was hypothesized that there were significant post harvest economic food losses from production through storage to marketing of the maize grain in the north rift region. A total of 100 farmers to be interviewed were selected from the region. The data collected were analyzed using descriptive and correlation methods. It was hypothesized that maize farmers would only store maize grains if and only if their storage benefits outweighed their costs or future prices rose enough to cover storage costs. During the study it was noted that there were losses of maize in the periods pre-harvesting, during harvesting, shelling and drying, storage etc. Among the farmers interviewed 42% stored their maize in cribs, 29% in bans,17% in basket and 12% in houses. Those who stored maize in houses did so for security reasons. Farmers who stored maize in baskets were mainly small-scale subsistence farmers producing less than 4,500 kg of shelled grain per household while those who stored in bans and large cribs are mainly medium to large-scale farmers who are commercially oriented. The results showed that there were no significant differences of maize grain losses among different farm level storage structures. However, highest estimated losses were reported in cribs (8%) followed by baskets (5%). The lowest losses were experienced in grains kept in houses and this could be attributed to close monitoring. Introduction Maize (Zea mays) grain losses contribute to food insecurity and low farm incomes not only in Kenya but also in other sub-saharan African countries (Compton, 1992; Azu, 2002; Republic of Kenya, 2004). Therefore, efficient post harvest handling, storage and marketing can tremendously contribute to social economic aspects of rural communities in Kenya as stipulated in Vision 2030 (Republic of Kenya, 2007). The losses are directly measurable in economic, quantitative, qualitative, (nutritional) terms. Economic loss is the reduction in monetary value of maize grain as a result of physical loss. Quantitative maize loss involves reduction in weight and therefore can be defined and valued. Qualitative loss although difficult to assess because it is frequently based on subjective judgments (like damage), can often be described by comparison with locally accepted quality standards (Magan and Aldred, 2007).Such losses lead to lower levels of food security, hunger and low on farm incomes (Republic of Kenya, 2004). There is limited data on post harvest losses on maize. The objectives of the study were to 1) assess the extent of maize grain post-harvest losses; 2) establish effectiveness of existing post harvest maize grain management strategies and 3) evaluate economic losses due to maize grain post harvest wastages. It was hypothesized that there were significant post harvest economic food losses from production through storage to marketing of the maize grain in the north rift region. Key words: maize, post-harvest, Losses, food. Methodology Site description The study was carried out in Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu regions of North West Kenya. The region lies in agro-ecological zones Upper midland 1, Lower humid zone 1-2 and Upper humid zone 2-3. Data collection procedure A survey was carried out in 2006 on post-harvest maize grain losses. A multi-stage and systematic sampling technique was employed to randomly select 100 farm households for the survey. Data was collected using semistructured questionnaire and checklists during both individual and key informant interviews, respectively. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected on crop enterprises, agronomic practices, inputs cost, yield 1228

2 levels and losses, storage, preservation methods and marketing costs and prices. Also types of crop losses (economic and qualitative) were identified and documented. Finally, community sensitization field workshops were carried out in the area of study. Data analyses The data collected were analyzed using descriptive and correlation methods. The descriptive statistics included; frequency distribution, means and percentages. Farmers store maize for food and sale and losses are incurred in both cases. It was hypothesized that maize farmers would only store maize grains if and only if their storage benefits outweighed their costs or future prices rose enough to cover storage costs. In deciding how long to store in the post-harvest season, the benefits from storage (P f P c ) must be balanced with the storage costs (S) involved and is represented by: t= n t = n S = t= 1 t= 1 ( P f P ) c Where S represents monthly maize storage cost (which included estimated grain losses, dusting costs including labour) at time t, for farmer i, Pf for future monthly prices at which maize is sold and Pc for current monthly price at which maize is stored. Results and Discussions Critical stages of maize grain losses Maize losses were experienced at different stages (pre-harvest, during harvesting, during shelling and during storage and transportation) during and after harvesting Table 1. There were reported cases of most maize varieties (>95%) which were not tolerant to weevils resulting in losses. In northwest Kenya, maize is traditionally left to dry in the fields prior to harvesting through stooking for about 2-4 weeks. During stoking some losses are incurred through rodents mainly rats and squirrels. Harvesting is done by hand by both women and male workers. During this process a few maize cobs are lost through stovers. The losses at this stage depended on supervision and experience of the workers during de-husking process. This implied that proper preharvest practices can contribute to reducing post-harvest loses. For example as observed by Magan and Aldred (2007) proper selection of maize hybrids by avoiding soft kernel hybrids, evading late sowing dates, avoiding late harvesting and effective control of pests such as maize stalk borer is reported to reduce post-harvest losses. Table 1. Different stages of post-harvest maize grain losses Stage at which losses can occur Causes of grain losses Pre-harvest Use of non-tolerant maize varieties to weevils and large grain borers Delayed planting and harvesting Varieties susceptible to diseases and pests During harvesting Poor supervision during de-husking Poor transportation to the stores Poor drying before storing in storage structures During storage in stores Pests (weevils, larger grain borer, rodents During shelling Poor shelling leading to breakages of grains Poor threshing or shelling practices Drying and storage Temperatures too high during drying Storage pests and fungi Insufficient drying before storage Moisture in storage structures which cause rotting and discoloration Poor storage bags that give sub-optimal aeration 1229

3 Storage of maize grains Since the inception of Grain storage project in 1990s, households were trained on different types of structures to safely store maize grains. The preference of different storage structures is a function of quantity of maize harvested, maize acreage, cost of construction and risks associated with grain losses. A high percentage of respondent households (95%) stored maize in farm structures. Although sampled households typically used a combination of storage methods, the predominant storage method among sampled households were cribs, baskets and bans. As shown in Figure 1, farmers stored maize grain in different types of structures, which included: cribs (42%), bans (29%), basket (17%) and houses (12%). Maize grains stored in houses were mainly preserved for food. In addition, house storage was perceived to be secure as losses through theft are minimized. Farmers who stored maize in baskets were mainly small-scale subsistence farmers producing less than 4500 kg bags of shelled grain per household while those who stored in bans and large cribs are mainly medium to largescale farmers who are commercially oriented. % response Chi-Square(a)= *** 12 6 Houses Cribs Baskets Bans Figure 1: Types of structures of maize grain storage The capacities, storage period and estimated losses of the storage structures The grain losses can be influenced by the type of structures, capacity of the structures, and duration of storage. The length of period for maize grain stored determines the quantity of grain losses. The length of period for maize grain stored determines the quantity of grain losses. The overall mean of storage duration was 5 months. The longest period was reported in baskets (9 months) followed by cribs (7 months). Bans had the shortest period of three months. This could be attributed to the fact that baskets are used by small-scale farmers who store maize for a relatively long period for food while bans were mainly used by large and medium scale farmers who are commercially oriented and sell maize grains in order to use the proceedings for re-investing in maize farming. The overall grain losses ranged from 0 to 50% with a pooled mean of about 6%. This showed great variability in grain losses among farms. The results showed that there were no significant differences of maize grain losses among different farm level storage structures. However, highest estimated losses were reported in cribs (8%) followed by baskets (5%). The lowest losses were experienced in grains kept in houses and this could be attributed to close monitoring. There were no significant differences in maize grains lost observed between the various storage methods. From these results it showed that storage facilities not only offer the opportunity to reduce hunger but farmers are possibly able to improve farm incomes by storing crops and selling at premium prices when demand outstrips supply later in the post-harvest period. 1230

4 Table 2. Type of and percentage of farmers practicing and estimated losses of different on-farm storage structure in North Rift Kenya Variable Storage N Mean STD SE F- statistic Capacity of the store in bags House Crib Basket * Ban All Length of storage of maize House Crib Basket NS Ban All Percentage loss of maize stored House Crib Basket NS Ban All Frequency of monitoring per month House Crib Basket * Ban All Key: *Significant at 10%; NS=not significant Maize supply and price variability during post-harvest seasons Analysis of maize prices showed wide variations between the net producing (Kitale) and net consuming (Kisumu) regions as well as between the harvest (October-November) and post-harvest seasons (December- August). Monthly maize prices were generally low during the major harvesting period and increase steadily to a peak just before the season s harvesting period (Figure 2). It is perceived that seasonality in maize production and inadequate storage particularly at farm level may be considered as the major cause of maize price variability in Kenya. Low prices and delayed payment by National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) for maize may be contributing to grain losses at farm level as farmers tend to keep maize at farm level. NCPB which is a government parastatal is a major player in maize grains price setting. Maize in Kenya has minor and major harvesting seasons in the major producing regions. Maize prices is lowest during the major harvesting season as farmers generally sell their output immediately after harvest (October to December) to meet cash needs. Some farmers also reported storing much of their crop harvested for sale during off season (March-August) when prices are higher than other months. However, the amount of maize farmers stored from the minor season is insufficient to eliminate the availability-gap or stabilize prices in the post-harvest season. As a result, inadequate maize storage in the post-harvest season continues to be the major underlying cause to high prices or insecurity in staple maize. 1231

5 price per 90kg bag y = 0.297x x y = x x Kitale (Major producing and surplus region) Kisumu (Major consuming and net deficit region) Poly. (Kitale (Major producing and surplus region)) Poly. (Kisumu (Major consuming and net deficit region)) Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Month Figure 2: Graph of average maize prices for major consuming and producing regions in Kenya 2007 Storage cost-benefit analysis The major storage problems reported by over 85% of the farmers surveyed include: uncertain returns from storage as a result of future price unpredictability (72%), limited working capital to construct cribs and store maize (35%) and physical and pest losses of stored maize (67%). It was expected that farmers had greater opportunities of increasing farmers earnings by storing maize after harvest in order to sell later when prices are relatively high. However, Table 3 indicates that in the short-term, storage did not increase farmers earnings and there was no opportunity for farmers who stored maize grains for less than three months after harvest if loses are not managed. Table 3: Monthly maize price spreads and estimated storage costs for cribs in 2007 Month Price (KES/90kbg) Price change Storage cost Margin (Pf-Pc)-S Impact Jan loss Feb loss Mar profit Apr profit May loss June loss July loss Aug loss Sep loss Oct profit Nov loss Dec loss Conclusions The post-harvest losses were also influenced by pre-harvest decisions like time of planting, harvest periods and choice of varieties. 1232

6 If losses are not managed, keeping maize for selling after some period of time is risky due to price fluctuations and storage losses Repairs and monitoring of on-farm grain structure in order to reduce the losses is poor leading to losses due to rots, insects and rats The design of on-farm grain structures have been modified to suit local circumstances at the expense of reducing grain losses. The modifications are contributing to the grain losses. Many of these farmers are using improved grain varieties that require improved grain storage technology. There is significant grain loss, in quantity, occurring at on-farm and in grain stores. This has caused frustration and anger to farmers, as they lose considerable amounts of grain each year. There is opportunity in long-term maize storage, but farmers and traders will continue to face constraints including uncertain returns from storage as a result of future price unpredictability, limited working capital to construct/repair storage structures. In addition physical grain losses contribute to the losses too. Programs designed to eliminate these constraints can encourage farmers and traders to increase efficiency in maize storage in the post-harvest seasons. Storage interventional activities must be provided to farmers and traders to reduce maize grain losses for enhanced food security. This will demand farmers access to drying and storage facilities at strategic maize producing and consuming areas. In addition, improvements in communication infrastructure to assist in effective dissemination of market information (prices) and predicting future prices, will play a key role in enhancing profitability and encourage maize grain storage among farmers and traders. The study showed that storage facilities are critical to increasing maize storage as well as managing maize losses in the post harvest seasons. Recommendations The Kenya Seed Company, being the major company that sells seeds needs to make sure that maize seeds are sold in time at the beginning of the planting season to avoid post-harvest losses. The Government through the Ministry of Agriculture should start programmes aimed at teaching the farmers on proper maize storage and post-harvest handling to reduce food losses. Storage interventional activities must be provided to farmers and traders to reduce maize grain losses for enhanced food security. National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) need to make sure they pay farmers on time to reduce postharvest losses of maize on the side of the farmers. Acknowledgement The authors wish to thank farmers of Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia for providing the information during the survey. Ministry of Agriculture personnel are hereby acknowledged for assisting on the selection and identification of the farmers to be interviewed. References Azu, J. (2002). Post-harvest loss reduction: OICI Tamale s quick interventions for reducing food insecurity. Ghana, OICI International. Compton, J. A. F. (1992). Reducing Losses in Small Farm Grain Storage in the Tropics: Chatham: NRI. Magan, N. and Aldred, D. (2007). "Post-Harvest Control Strategies: Minimizing Mycotoxins in the Food Chain." International Journal of Food Microbiology 119(1-2): Republic of Kenya (2004). Strategy for revitalizing agriculture Nairobi, Kenya., Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Development, and Cooperative Development and Marketing. Republic of Kenya (2007). Kenya Vision A competitive and prosperous nation Nairobi. Kenya., Ministry of Planning and National Development in partnership, Kenya and Government of Finland. 1233

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