Renewable energy can reverse $9bn post-harvest losses – experts

by | April 21, 2017 11:29 am

… Decry absence of energy plan in government’s agricultural policies.

Stakeholders in the renewable energy sector are calling for the incorporation of renewable energy technology infrastructure in the Federal Government’s agricultural plans to reverse annual post-harvest losses amounting to $9 billion.

President Muhammadu Buhari, speaking at the 20th anniversary of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) Joint Venture’s Farmers’ Day held in Yenagoa, last year, lamented post-harvest losses estimated to be about $9bn annually in the agricultural sector.

Nigeria depends on rain-fed agriculture because its 264 dams with combined storage facility of 33 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water lie idle. Furthermore, the country has not harnessed hydropower potentials from 127 sites across 20 states, capable of yielding about 500MW of power.

“Now is the time for the Ministries of Agriculture, Trade and Investment and Power to sit down and design a Powering Agriculture Programme for Nigeria. Solar drip irrigation and renewable energy powered storage and transport systems should be designed along major agricultural corridors like LA-KA-JI,” says Godwin Aigbokhan, Renewable Energy Market Adviser at the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria.

Nigeria currently loses about 40 to 50 per cent of fresh fruits and vegetables produced, as a result of poor packaging, handling and preservation.

“This loss happens when food rots in markets, when it is poorly stored and can no longer be consumed, and when there is insufficient uptake from buyers,” explains Mamadou Biteye, the managing director for the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office.

Experts say this loss can be curbed if Nigeria integrates renewable energy technologies in irrigation activities and food storage. This will cut dependence on rain-fed agriculture, curbing delays associated with late rains.

A corollary to solving energy problems by promoting access to renewable energy across the agricultural value chain, is to make government intervention programme to boost agriculture market based.

“Operation Feed the Nation and several other similar Government intervention programmes to boost agricultural production failed because they were not market based,” says Aigbokhan.

“Increasing production, moving produce and storing them with renewable energy will not solve anything, unless we have a market. The availability of the market will drive processing, because if companies are sure that they will get the produce, they will focus only on investing in processing facilities and loans by the Agricultural Bank and the Bank of Industry can help in this area.

“It has to be linked to a completely independent, private sector led commodities market in Nigeria. Storage Facilities can be developed across the country to preserve farm produce and even small holder farmers will be encouraged to come to the market because their produce will be stored and they can sell when demand is high. This will eventually lead to falling prices,” says Aigbokan.

Ovoke Ekrebe, a renewable energy specialists with Vanpeux Global Synergy Limited, says that renewable energy (such as Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Biomass etc) are low-hanging-fruits, as regards sourcing energy for the agricultural sector.

“Most agricultural locations are in off-grid or under-served communities. It is easier for renewable energy to provide immediate relief, than having to wait for grid extension. Furthermore, renewable energy can be localised for a specific projects or group projects, scaling it to size and budget.