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The wonder bag that keeps produce pure

By Christopher Bendana

Added 1st December 2016 04:02 PM

The grain is first dried before it is stored to remove moisture. The bag is then closed by tying a string.

The wonder bag that keeps produce pure

The grain is first dried before it is stored to remove moisture. The bag is then closed by tying a string.

PIC: Ambrose Abunga (R), a farmer from Lwaka Village in Ayam District, and other researchers check out the PICS bags used to store produce. (Credit: Ramadhan Abbey)

Sarah Namwasa of Nakalama, Iganga district is what one would call an early adopter. She owns 30 Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags of the 33,000 sold in the country in 2015.

She says she was introduced to the bag year by an organization working in her home district. The bag that looks like the common sugar and rice bag has two liners instead of one and is also woven.

The grain is first dried before it is stored to remove moisture. The bag is then closed by tying a string. It can store all grain - maize, beans, peas, etc.

Namwasa says she earned a profit of sh1.2m last year from selling 3000kg of maize she had stored in PICS bags.

"I brought at sh600 a kg and sold at sh1000."

She adds that by using PICS bags, her produce weight remains intact. "If I put 100kg in a bag it's what I find after a year."

She explains that she was able to make a good profit because she sold during offseason time when the prices are high.


Better germination

Ambrose Abunga from Apito Lwak in Oyam district is another early adopter farmer. He told New Vision that the seeds stored in PICS bags give a 100% germination rate compared to those protected with chemicals whose germination rate he put at 30%.

He said that the grains like maize remain with their natural taste since they no longer use insecticides to kill the pests. He further gave the advantage of directing milling unlike when one uses chemicals and has to do two hulling.

Chakubinga Moatswi, a scientist from Botswana, said they would adopt the technology as it would help them eliminate the use of chemicals.

Brett Rieson, the head of Global Post Harvest Knowledge & Operations Center at the World Food Programme (WFP), praised the technology for being cheap and efficient.

Post-harvest losses

A PICS bag costs sh7000 on the local market.

"It is a good technology," he said, adding that Uganda is a leader in adoption of such technologies and is providing a learning experience to many countries.

Prof. Charles P. Woloshuk with researchers from different Countries    doing a test of the normal temperature needed by crops in a PICS bag. (STORY by Abbey Ramadhan)

Dieudoone Baributsa, an associate professor at Purdue University, spoke during a Purdue Improved Crop Storage and Post Harvest Workshop at in Kampala. He said the programme's aim is to help in the reduction of post-harvest losses at farm level.

He said they had already reached 200,000 farmers in 3700 villages in Uganda through CLUSA and Sasakawa.

The technology, added Baributsa, is an important tool in fighting the rising cases of aflatoxins.

Since there is no oxygen in the bag, it stops the growth of the fungus that causes the aflatoxins chemicals.

 The PICS bag, an initiative of Purdue University in the US, is used in 25 countries in Africa and Asia. It was introduced in Uganda in 2013.

Although there is an increase from 33,000 bags sold in Uganda in 2015 to 53,000 in 2016, Uganda performs poorly in adoption compared to neighbouring Kenya which sold 563,000 in 2016 up from 220,000 in 2015, according Jean Njiru, PICS Supply Chain Network Manager based in Nairobi.

Brett statistics in December last year put post-harvest losses at between 30-40% of the produce.

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