Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste

Status of the postharvest sector and its contribution to agricultural development and economic growth

JIRCAS international symposium series 


The past 35 years have witnessed an evolution of priorities within the postharvest sector of developing countries-from a primarily technical focus geared toward the reduction of losses, to a more holistic approach designed to link on-farm activities to processing, marketing and distribution. Despite this evolution in trends, fundamental problems and concerns of the sector have remained relatively unchanged, with high postharvest losses, poor marketing systems, weak research and development capacity, and inadequacies in policies, infrastructure and information exchange cited as major constraints within the sector in the five developing regions of the world.

Emerging trends that currently impact upon development of the sector in developing countries include urbanization, trade liberalization, vertical integration of commodity chains, developments in biotechnology, and food safety and quality concerns of consumers, both in domestic and in importing markets. The rapidly increasing pace of urbanization in developing countries will undoubtedly present by far the greatest opportunities for their agricultural development and economic growth.

Value-addition through postharvest processing, handling and storage holds the potential for agricultural development and economic growth and hence increasing incomes and generating off-farm employment at the rural level in developing countries. Associated economic benefits will, however, only be maximized with increased productivity at the farmer level. Improving production-processing linkages through contract farming, for example, and the formation of farmers' associations and cooperatives-designed to foster economies of scale at the production and processing levels-offer opportunities for increasing productivity and competitiveness in value addition. Strengthening the markets for agro-based value-added products, and updating standard infrastructure (e.g. access to water, power, road facilities, ports etc.) as well as that specific to postharvest requirements (e.g. refrigerated facilities, packaging units, storage facilities etc.) will, however, be critical. Appropriate research and development as well as extension systems geared toward increasing efficiency along the postharvest chain will also be needed in support of strengthening the sector at the rural level. These initiatives can be effective only if supported by enabling policies that stimulate agricultural development and economic growth.

Year: 2002
Author: Geoffrey C. Mrema, Rosa S. Rolle