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Postharvest waste hinders farmers and consumers in Samoa

22/08/2018 Apia, Samoa

Postharvest waste is a major issue for Samoa, not only does it reduce smallholder farmer profit but it decreases the amount of fruit and vegetables available for sale to consumers.

A workshop was held in Apia which will presented results and key recommendations associated with FAO-funded research and development activities to improve smallholder postharvest handling practice in Samoa. 

In 2015, FAO launched a project aimed atimproving the capacity of small farmers to market a consistent supply of safe, quality food. Part of the project involved research which would help to reduce postharvest horticulture fruit and vegetable loss in Samoa. The project was led by Professor Steven Underhill from the University of Queensland, Australia.

In 2015, Prof Underhill in collaboration with staff from the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS) undertook an in-depth study of the level of postharvest loss in the central markets in Apia, as well as other municipal markets throughout Upolu and Savaii.  

This work identified postharvest losses of up to 20 percent; with fruit crops and leafy vegetable particularly prone to high amounts of wastage.

"Postharvest waste is a major issue for Samoa, not only does it reduce smallholder farmer profit but it decreases the amount of fruit and vegetables available for sale to consumers" said Prof Underhill. "A 20 percent postharvest loss means almost 1/5 of Samoa horticultural fresh fruit and vegetables is being either thrown away or fed to livestock." Said Prof Underhill.

A significant proportion of the postharvest loss occurred in the municipal markets, and to a lesser extent through on-farm harvest practices.  

Over a two year period since 2015, the focus was to work together to reduce this loss.  

“We undertook a series of training activities and testing practical tools and equipment to assist market vendors, smallholder farmers and commercial growers”. Said Prof Underhill. “Our priority do this in-market, with local communities and in partnership with commercial farmers – hands-on training undertaken in field specifically tailored to Samoa conditions”.

Prof. Underhill  suggested that having a market vendors association will help vendors voice their opinions and concerns as one single association. 

“If you’re throwing away 20-30 percent of your fresh horticultural product because the supply chain system is not working, can Samoa afford to throw away that amount of money and that amount of food, no you can’t it has to be fixed. 

“Having value added ideas to address post-harvest losses is interesting. What we were finding is that fruit farmers tend to have the worst post-harvest problem. 

This project involved a close partnership with FAO and SROS who examined food safety risk. FAO will also worked with extension staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and students from the University of the South Pacific.  

Presenters included researchers from FAO, The University of Queensland, Australia, Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa and participating farmers and market vendors. 

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