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Press Release 99/47

NEW FORUM FOR SHARING INFORMATION ON POST-HARVEST RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ESTABLISHED


Rome, August 6 -- Responding to growing post-harvest information needs, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced the formation of PhAction, a global post-harvest forum. Ten institutions will participate in the new forum, with the goal of creating and developing post-harvest information systems and raising the profile of post-harvest research.

With the expansion of international food trade, and increased importing and exporting of food products, a new dimension has been added to the need for improving efficiency and minimizing losses as food goes from the farmer's field to the consumer's table.

"Post-harvest activities used to focus on individual small farmers who needed to preserve their harvested crops for themselves and their families," explained François Mazaud, Senior Officer of FAO's post-harvest management group.

"Now innovative post-harvest systems allow farmers to add value to their harvests while increasing income and generating off-farm employment for people involved in the processing, transportation and marketing of food products."

The ten founding institutions of PhAction will share information and work together to develop and deliver innovative post-harvest systems, in collaboration with a range of public and private sector partners in developing countries. In the future, membership will be expanded to major regional research bodies, key NGOs, agribusiness centres and entrepreneurs. Including partners with a range of skills will increase the ability of PhAction to meet the post-harvest challenges into the next millennium.

The PhAction organizations will be linked through a newsletter as well as through InPhO, an information network on post-harvest operations that is accessible through the FAO Web site (www.fao.org/inpho). The InPhO Web site already has more than 10 000 visitors each month who are able to access the databases, documents and newsletters as well as the "who is who" section that offers contact information within the ten founding InPhO organizations plus information about other interested individuals and organizations who are accessing the Web site.

Much of this information is also available through an InPhO CD-ROM, initially published by FAO in 1998. The second edition of the InPhO CD-ROM is due for distribution in October 1999, with plans to update annually for interested individuals or groups that do not have Internet access.

The problem of post-harvest losses is especially dramatic in developing countries where loss of cereals is between 10 and 20 percent and of fruits and vegetables as high as 20 to 100 percent. There is no question that decreasing these post-harvest losses could mean more food for tens of millions of consumers.

"There is already evidence that in the future both land and water will be more scarce," said Mr Mazaud. "There will also be less manpower because many people are leaving their farms and moving to cities.

"Add to that the predicted population increases and we are looking at a future where there will be fewer producers with fewer resources producing food for more consumers. That is why we must improve all elements of the chain from producers to consumers.

"Producing enough food is just half the battle."

FAO estimates that just a 10 percent savings of post-harvest losses in Asian rice would mean a savings of 5 million tonnes of food a year.

"Food security has two legs," Mazaud said. "First is the production of food products. But the food has to be preserved and delivered. Food may be harvested in one week, but must serve the consumers for one year, until the next harvest. So the second leg of food security involves all the levels of processing, storage and transporting that will allow consumers to have access to the food product."

The founding organizations of PhAction include the five members of the Group for Assistance on Systems relating to Grain After Harvest (GASGA) and five international agricultural research centres. The GASGA members are the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Centre de co-opération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), FAO, Deutsche Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), and the Natural Resources Institute (NRI). International Agricultural Research Centre members include Centro internacional de agricultura tropical (CIAT), International Potato Center (CIP), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).


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