Post-harvest grain losses cost sub-Sahara Africa $4b yearly – Report

A new report co-released by the FAO and World Bank Tuesday May 21, 2011 says sub-Sahara Africa is losing as much as $4 billion every year due to post-harvest grain losses.

The report suggests that investing in post-harvest technologies to reduce food losses could significantly increase the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa.

Titled ‘Missing Food: The Case of Postharvest Grain Losses in Sub-Saharan Africa’, the report produced in collaboration with the UK’s Natural Resources Institute, estimates the value of post-harvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa at around $4 billion a year.

According to the FAO Assistant Director-General Maria Helena Semedo, “This lost food could meet the minimum annual food requirements of at least 48 million people,” adding that “If we agree that sustainable agricultural systems need to be developed to feed 9 billion people by 2050, addressing waste across the entire food chain must be a critical pillar of future national food strategies.”

Citing estimates provided by the African Postharvest Losses Information System, the report said physical grain losses prior to processing can range from 10 to 20 percent.  In Eastern and Southern Africa alone, food losses are valued at $1.6 billion per year, or about 13.5 percent of the total value of grain production.

While no similar regional loss estimates are available for Central or West Africa, assuming losses of a similar magnitude, the value of post-harvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa could total $4 billion a year out of an estimated annual grain production worth $27 billion (2005 2007 annual average). This is roughly equivalent to the value of annual cereal imports in the region during the same period. Given the near doubling of global grain prices since 2005-2007, the value of current losses is likely much higher, it said.

The recent food and financial crises have heightened the focus on post-harvest losses, it added.

Jamal Saghir, Director of the Sustainable Development Department, World Bank Africa Region, warned that Africa cannot afford to lose 20 percent of its grain production.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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