In developing countries like Nigeria, small holder farmers producing vegetables and fruits are often faced with postharvest losses. One major reason is that crops are generally harvested with high water content of over 90% which makes it very perishable. Also, a larger number of these perishables are always lost because of poor handling. In Nigeria, tomatoes are packed in basket for transportation to the market.
The intention was for the tomatoes to be well ventilated but so as to allow a good number to be transported, the baskets are been stacked on top of each other which eventually do results in many bruised tomatoes.
Tomato wastage is a big concern in the country, study shows that over 45% of the tomatoes produced in Nigeria is estimated as annual loss as a result of poor value chain management, price instability and supply preference. The following are postharvest handling tricks that can help elongate the life span of tomatoes;
- Grading: is also known as sorting, it is the process of arranging tomatoes in a uniform category with respect to economic importance, quality and physical characteristics. It involves identification, classification and separation. This process is essential because uniformity is one of the attributes buyers look for when buying tomatoes.
- Cold storage: is a way of extending the shelf life of tomatoes and other vegetables. The temperature required by tomato storage is about 55ºF to 60ºF and would increase the life span to about 3 to 4 weeks, if it is stored under a temperature lesser than that, it tends to break down.
- Drying: this is typically done by slicing tomatoes and then sun drying till the moisture content is dried up. If completely moisture free, dried tomatoes can last for about a year. However, where there is low sunlight, dried tomatoes will have remnants of moisture that will give room for mold to develop. Tomatoes can as well be processed into puree and juice.
It is pertinent that tomato farmer know the best time to harvest, tomatoes are best harvested when they are 50%-70% ripe (once the tomatoes are half green and half pink called the ‘breaker stage’), at this point in time the moisture content in the tomato is less because it hasn’t fully ripe and it’s still strong hence, they are likely not to be bruised during transportation.
Also, tomatoes should be displayed under shade or in a well-ventilated space in the market and when being transported, it should not be transported in open trucks.
Government and private sector interventions:
The fluctuations in price is one of the market constraints that affect the postharvest qualities of tomatoes, it implies that actors face difficulties in forecasting their revenue. Also, lack of knowledge of different ways of marketing goes a long way in affecting marketing decision and production of tomatoes. Therefore, we urge the government to come in and set up a product pricing regulation agency under the ministry of agriculture so that the middle men won’t be ripping the producers off.
Also, all modalities that would make pesticides and modern technologies available to farmers in areas with high production of tomatoes should be put in place by the government because the pests expose the producers to losses and they have described the trend as discouraging. They should also introduce models to stimulate production of tomatoes and strengthen the end-to-end linkages in the value chain.
In conclusion, the use of good agricultural practices (gap) at every stage of the value chain will eventually eradicate or reduce all the type of wastages that is associated with healthy tomatoes and that is what we offer at Heart and capital. We consult for farm owners, by doing reconnaissance on their farm and advising on the best practices to indulge in based on the data collected and also supervise in some cases. Also, we do professional farm management for farm owners that know little or nothing about the particular aspect of agricultural value chain they are trying venture into.