Cereals are the staple food for millions of poor people in developing countries. It is thus important to maintain their quality and value along the entire supply chain to ensure that consumers have access to food that is safe and nutritious. However, significant amounts of food crops produced in developing countries are lost, aggravating food insecurity. The causes of post-harvest losses are manifold. They include poor storage practices which allow attack by insect and rodents, and contamination with mycotoxins. Crops also lose value due to damage from inappropriate tools, rough handling and spillage during harvesting, loading, packing and transportation.
Food losses contribute to high food prices by removing part of the supply from the market. They also impact on environmental degradation and climate change as land, water, labour and non-renewable resources such as fertilizer and energy are used to produce, process, handle and transport food that no one consumes.
FAO can assist with training and technical advice in post-harvest handling, storage practice, drying and proper use of insecticides, which can significantly reduce these losses. We conduct appraisals of post-harvest systems to identify gaps and enable appropriate solutions to be found. We also aim to improve traditional technologies and introduce new techniques in the post harvest handling and storage of crops.
One example is the metal silo technology for grain storage on the farm. The silo can be hermetically sealed for fumigation purposes, provide an effective barrier against insects and rodents and allow grain to be stored in good condition for longer periods of time. The structures have been promoted in many countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia and local artisans trained in their fabrication.
One of our recent activities is the FAO/World Bank workshop on Reducing Post Harvest Losses in Grain Supply Chains in Africa which was held in Rome in March 20010 and brought together experts to discuss the significance of the issue of PHL reduction, past experiences, and appropriate future interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa. A meeting report can be downloaded from our Publications section
On-farm post-harvest management of food grains. A manual for extension workers with special reference to Africa (click to download)