Nigerian farmers have new reasons to leap for joy as GEMS4 has embarked on a pilot test of using Returnable Plastic Crates (RPCs) for transporting tomatoes.

The pilot test which involves a train fully loaded with 585 Returnable Plastic Crates of tomatoes is being undertaken by ConnectRail services but at the instance of the GEMS4 DFID project. The train has left Kano state and is expected to arrive at Iddo train Lagos state by 5pm.

According to the Group Intervention Manager, Agri-business GEMS4 Project, Mr. Richard Ogundele, the project seeks to infuse Good Handling Practices (GHP) into the tomato value chain with a view to stemming the high incidence of losses and also to guarantee the income of farmers and marketers of tomato while generating employment.

“Notice greenish yellowish more that the red ones, that’s the application of colour code chart to ensure tomato is still in ripening process and can stand rigors of handling and journey to final market. At least they need about five to seven days to be fully ripe”, he said.

Ogundele expressed that the design of the crates will help retain the freshness of the produce, hence the retailer has more time to preserve the produce which will also increase the bargaining power of both the farmer and the retailer.

Speaking further, he noted that the adoption of this technology will provide jobs at collection centres for as people will be needed to sort the tomatoes upon harvest and pack into crates.

Also speaking with AgroNigeria, Mr. Kabir Lawal, who is supervising the transportation from the north, stated that formerly,  raffia baskets  which were woven  in such a way that limited aeration, were used.

“The baskets were covered with paper and stacked on one another sitting directly on the produce and this increases the risk of spoilage. However, the use of this plastic crates prevents squashing as the crates though placed on each other do not seat directly on the produce. They also allow for more ventilation and retain the fresh state of the produce” he explained.