NIGERIA – Post-harvest losses of fruits such as mango, pawpaw, orange, guava, pineapple have gone down to about 25 percent from about 50 percent three years and beyond, due mainly to increased commercial utilisation.

Peter Hartmann, former director-general, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said in 2010 that in Nigeria, post-harvest loss of crops was more than one-third and for fruits, this was about 50 percent in many African countries.

According to BusinessDay investigation, fruit wastage has reduced by about half in the last three years due to more commercial utilisation.

But this commercial utilisation of fruits is not so much from manufacturing of fruit juices/drinks but from growing health awareness on the need to consume fresh fruits. At almost every high profile event within the last three years, fresh fruit juices are served with the makers of the juice coming with fresh fruits, juice extractors and mixers, mixing the fruits on the spot and serving to guests.

Some get paid as much as N100,000 or more, depending on the scale of the event and the calibre of guests. If the guests have to buy, they pay about N200 to N300 or more for a glass cup of 50cl of fresh fruit juice. This business has become so lucrative that professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants are taking it up.

Tomi Sanni, a lawyer, is one of the many professionals with a fresh juice service business, with at least three people in permanent employment and several temporary staff that are engaged from time to time. Sanni said: “We buy fruits in bulk from a wholesale fruit market at Ketu.

Nature’s Best sells directly to the consumers or end users as much as possible, and as fast as possible after production. We are not producing the same kind of fruit drink as these other fruit juice manufacturing companies. We serve fresh at events like seminars, cocktails, luncheons or big parties like weddings, funerals, etc.”

Olutola Oyedele, a researcher at the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) and fellow of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), said though there were still a lot of faulty issues in bringing the fruits from the hinterlands – South East, South West and South South, to the consumer, the fact that health awareness was increasing, tilting towards consumption of fresh fruits, was helping to mop up some of what would have been wasted.

“But the government still needs to do more because the spoilage of the fruits usually starts from the field and more gets spoilt during transportation,” according to Oyedele.

After the effective ban on importation of fruit juice/drinks in 2003, some companies simply responded by importing concentrates, which is then mixed and packaged within the country. Already, existing fruit juice/drinks, which were having a hard time competing with imported brands were able to have some breathing space and make headway in the market.

But about three years ago, almost a decade after the ban, some big manufacturing companies started or added production of concentrates, fruit juice and fruit drinks to their production line using fresh juice. But these big and small manufacturers of fruit juice/drinks use very small amount of fresh fruits, just about 40 percent or less.

Dele Oyeku, a researcher at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), said at a workshop that fruit drinks were made with less than 40 percent of fresh fruits, while fruit juices were made with about 40 percent of fresh fruits.

According to Nnamdi Anakwe of Foraminifera Market Research, there is high demand for fruit juice in Nigeria. Anakwe estimates the national demand for fruit juices at 550 million litres, while current domestic supply is less than 25 percent of the demand.

Also heightening demand for fruits are well established firms like Primlaks, which started the production of Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) Fruits and Vegetables processed, packed and supplied under a brand called Sympli.

According to a release by Primlaks, research indicates that frozen fruits and vegetables are very healthy as they are harvested at their peak ripeness, a period when they are packed with the most nutrients, and then flash frozen within a very short time interval. The process of quick freezing fruits and vegetables preserves them in their nutritionally top state full of vitamins and antioxidants, and also prevents the growth of bacteria.

Apart from locking in peak nutritional value, Primlaks also reveal that IQF also increases storage life resulting in less food wastage. Primlaks is a pioneer in this segment having ventured into IQF production upon seeing a good business opportunity that could simultaneously tackle the post-harvest loss Nigeria is facing.

Primlaks regards this post-harvest loss as unnecessary spoilage and is doing its part to reduce food wastage, create jobs in agriculture and generate foreign exchange earnings.

February 10, 2015;