Plastic Crates Changing Lives of Nigerian Farmers
01 Jul 2017
Plastic crates are changing the lives of farmers in Nigeria by giving them a durable, long-lasting and hygienic way to transport produce. The Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN) is aimed at reducing post-harvest losses associated with transporting goods in traditional woven raffia baskets.
These are set to be replaced under a proposal to utilise plastic crates for produce, which is expected to reduce the 45% of fruits, vegetables, tubers and roots currently lost through traditional transportation methods.
Making the Switch
The Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN) Nigeria, which is an initiative of GAIN, aims to introduce the use of Returnable Plastic Crates (RPCs). This could save farmers an estimated $9 billion annually by reducing waste in the transportation chain. By using plastic crates for food, local farmers will be able to enhance their business opportunities in the current agricultural value chain by saving on costs and minimising losses.
If the policy is embraced, it will ensure that food arrives at market in optimum condition, having been adequately protected from harvest all the way through the supply chain to the point of sale.
Bringing Goods to Market
When tomato sellers made the switch to using plastic crates for farming and transporting their goods to the popular Mile 12 Market, the impact was immediate. Instead of losing 45% of their crop using traditional transportation methods, they experienced losses of just 5%. This means that a highly perishable crop can now be brought to markets across Lagos in a better condition, with most of the vegetables’ nutrients intact and a relatively longer shelf life depending on when the crop was picked.
The Benefits of Plastic Crates for Food
Millions of tons of fruit and vegetables are shipped every day using plastic crates for produce from the field to distribution centres and then to market. These plastic crates for farming and distribution have the edge over wooden crates because they’re safer and easier to handle. They’re also water-resistant and won’t run the risk of drying out produce as they can be sealed with a lid and stacked for greater efficiency.
Using these types of crates is also more hygienic than wooden crates, which can carry various disease-causing organisms and bacteria, because the plastic is easier to keep clean. Vented crates allow air to circulate, keeping produce at peak freshness. The ability to stack crates filled with fragile produce like tomatoes and mangos not only reduces waste but standardises the amount of produce that can be transported at any one time.
Major Savings for Nigeria’s Farmers
Although the upfront costs of returnable plastic crates are higher than traditional raffia baskets, the savings in time and efficiency, better transportation and increased profit make for big returns on the initial investment. RPCs also allow Nigeria’s farmers to satisfy international standards for packing perishable foodstuffs in pathogen- and disease-free crates.