Development of Kenya Standards for Hermetic Storage Technologies for Grains - Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC)

Food security is a key concern for Kenya and has as of early 2018 become a priority for the nation as one of the Big Four Agendas by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Prior to this EAGC had already begun advocating for improved storage technologies.

EAGC recognised that Kenya faces a major problem with the post-harvest management of food commodities, particularly grains. Post-harvest losses are typically estimated at approximately 20-30% of grain production is estimated to be lost within 6 months due to inadequate post-harvest handling and storage (Reducing Post-Harvest Loss- A Behavioral Approach). This equates to over 1 million tons of maize annually (more than 11 million bags), worth over Kshs 33.5 billion.

Post-harvest losses of food commodities translate to lost revenue for farmers, traders and processors, and weaken food security in the country. Inadequate post-harvest handling also presents quality and safety risks by increasing the risk of spoilage and aflatoxin contamination, presenting a public health concern. Appropriate post-harvest storage methods would address this. The private sector has responded by developing a suite of post-harvest storage solutions. These include hermetic storage technologies.

Hermetic storage is the process by which oxygen is depleted and replaced by carbon dioxide, thus controlling grain storage pests without insecticide (Walsh et al, 2014). Hermetic storage technologies include plastic containers, metal silos and specially designed plastic grain bags (typically referred to as hermetic storage bags). Hermetic storage technologies are generally safer and potentially more affordable option to eliminate pest infestation compared to using chemical compounds and fumigants, which pose a health risk if not applied correctly.

Hermetic Storage Technologies, particularly hermetic grain bags are a relatively recent development in Kenya. Proponents of the technology (including manufacturers and development projects) are investing significantly to promote awareness of the method as a suitable alternative to traditional storage means and solution to post-harvest losses. To date, approximately 1.5 million hermetic storage bags have been sold to date (Communique on the Grain Sector Consultative Meeting on Development of Standards for Hermetic Storage Technologies (HST) in Kenya).

This risk is exacerbated by the fact that there are no standards for hermetic storage technology in Kenya. This means that users of the hermetic storage solutions (particularly farmers) are vulnerable to sub-standard products.

EAGC’s position

Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) recognise the need to develop product standards for hermetic storage technologies in order to regulate the quality of hermetic storage technologies and protect users from poor quality products that will undermine efforts to minimise post-harvest losses.

Expected Outcome

A successful outcome of this advocacy activity is the development and gazetting of Kenya national standard(s) for hermetic storage technologies, which will form the basis for regulating the quality of hermetic bags, plastic containers and metal silos.

Currently, neither the EAC nor COMESA has standards for HSTs. Therefore, the Kenya HST standards can be used for development of regional standards. This will further support intra-regional trade in HSTs and provide Kenya manufacturers with a competitive advantage in intra-regional trade.

The standards for HSTs are expected to improve access to good quality HSTs to reduce post-harvest losses and protecting the quality of stored commodities, meaning that they complement existing policies and strategies in the agricultural sector. By reducing losses, they provide an opportunity for farmers to maximise their incomes and increase food availability, which is in line with objectives and strategies implied in the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy.