Post-harvest losses management

The postharvest sector includes all points in the value chain from production in the field to the food being placed on a plate for consumption. Postharvest activities include: harvesting, handling, storage, processing, packaging, transportation and marketing.

Significant amounts of the food produced in developing countries are lost after harvest thereby aggravating hunger. The causes of post-harvest losses, which some estimates suggest could range from 15 to as high as 50 percent of what is produced, are manifold. These include: harvesting at an incorrect stage of produce maturity, excessive exposure to rain, drought or extremes of temperature, contamination by micro-organisms and physical damage that reduces the value of the product.

Food losses contribute to high food prices by removing part of the supply from the market. They also have an impact on environmental degradation and climate change as land, water, human labour and non-renewable resources such as fertilizer and energy are used to produce, process, handle and transport food that no one consumes.

There are a wide range of postharvest technologies that can be adopted to improve losses throughout the process of pre-harvest, harvest, cooling, temporary storage, transport, handling and market disbursement. Recommended technologies vary depending on the type of loss experienced and include: Using liners for existing packages, sorting produce by quality, providing shade, using tables, using dry ice for insect control, low energy cold storage, monitoring produce temperature, improved transportation, low-cost food processing, solar drying and curing (Kader 2003).