BES Veggie, an agri-processing startup, has set out to address post-harvest losses among smallholder farmers by processing perishable vegetables such as tomatoes and pepper into powder form to prolong their shelf lives.
The initiative, which is the brainchild of four young Ghanaian entrepreneurs, seeks to provide ready markets for smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods as well as train women and persons with disability to gain employable skills in the agriculture value chain.
It is estimated that one-third of the food produced (about 1.3 billion tonnes) worth about US$ 1 trillion, is lost globally during postharvest operations every year.
The company in November 2022, embarked on a trial production at Akumadan in the Ashanti Region, where it purchased tomatoes and pepper directly from smallholder farmers and processed them into powder.
The initiative was birthed with the support of the Kosmos Innovation Center and the MasterCard Foundation.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Mary Nana Ama Agyei, Brand and Marketing Lead, BES Veggie, said the company was worried about the increasing rates of post-harvest losses among farmers, hence, the initiative.
She said the move would not only prolong the lifespan of food products but would also provide business opportunities to young people in their operational areas. </p>
“It is worrying that after harvesting, large amounts of tomatoes go waste because there are no buyers or delay in pickups. These hard-working farmers end up losing lots of their produce and their hard labour ends in vain.
“We intend to end that problem by buying their produce in large quantities, process them into powder form to prolong its shelf life. In this case, we minimise the postharvest loss and improve the standard of living of the farmer financially,” Nana Agyei said. </p>
Ms Agyei said the company had targeted smallholder farmers in Akumadan and Tuobodom in the Bono East Regio, which are considered as the largest producers of tomatoes in the country.
She said the company had secured some processing equipment, adding that full-scale production and marketing of their produce would commence soon.
“The good news is that the total solids in one gram of tomato powder equals to 10 times the total solids in fresh tomato or paste. That is why BES Veggie would encourage everyone out there to get our product when we are fully operating so that together we can create value for our farmers,” Nana Agyei said.
In the 2017 Ghana Living Standards Survey, tomato made up the highest proportion (11.6 per cent) of household vegetable expenditure.
The increase in consumption rates of tomato offers an opportunity for smallholder farmers to increase their income by producing larger volumes of tomato to meet the demand.
However, postharvest losses of tomato that occur at the pre-consumer level have been estimated at between 20-50 per cent.