Elizabeth Ojina

Here’s how you can curb tomato losses

As the rains pound various parts of the country, many tomato farmers are losing their crop on the farm due to diseases or their produce after harvesting. Hesborn Amukambwa is a seeds agronomist, western region, at Amiran Kenya. He spoke to Elizabeth Ojina on how farmers can curb tomato losses

Sometimes the tomato will look good when harvested but two days later, you find it going bad. This may be due to Tuta absoluta embedded in it.

Farmers should also avoid harvesting immature tomatoes. Delayed harvesting also leads to losses as the fruit is perishable. In most cases, marketing losses occur due to glut or spoilage.

There are two major qualities in tomatoes that can guarantee longer shelf-life namely the outer cover and juicy content of the fruit.

The tougher the outer cover, the longer it lasts. Tomatoes with more juicy content after ripening go bad easily. Of course factors such as fertilisers applied, pest and diseases play a major role in the shelf-life of tomatoes.

Have the area in controlled environment in such a way that there is enough ventilation to reduce the accumulation of heat from respiration.

For longer-term storage, ripe tomatoes can be stored at temperatures of about 10–16°C and 85–95 per cent relative humidity. The area should be free from moisture.

Another technology a farmer can apply is to use solar energy to cool rooms where tomatoes are stored. Alternatively, use charcoal coolers to store the tomatoes after harvest.

The plastic crates reduce tomato loss in transit by 78 per cent and are ideal for transporting not only tomatoes but also any other vegetables.

These crates are designed to interlock without causing any bruises on the tomatoes during transportation. The wooden boxes host 60 to 100kg of tomatoes, so when they are piled on each other, tomatoes arrive in the market squashed.

Most farmers lack knowledge and information on how to minimise post-harvest losses. Some of the losses are avoidable, for instance, if only they did research on the market need, used the right seed and spray suitable crop protection chemicals on time.

If there is over production, they can easily add value to the tomatoes instead of letting them go bad and throwing them away.

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