The importance of post harvest loss management
Time and money are required to cultivate food products, and unless the farmer is providing food only for his own household, he automatically becomes part of the market economy: he must sell his produce, he must recover his costs, and he must make a profit.
Estimates of the postharvest losses of food grains in the developing world from mishandling, spoilage and pest infestation are put at 25%; this means that one quarter of what is produced never reaches the consumer for whom it was grown, and the effort and money required to produce it are lost forever. Fruit, vegetables and root crops are much less hardy and are mostly quickly perishable, and if care is not taken in their harvesting, handling and transport, they will soon decay and become unfit for human consumption. Estimates of production losses in developing countries are hard to judge, but some authorities put losses of sweet potatoes, plantain, tomatoes, bananas and citrus fruit sometimes as high as SO percent, or half of what is grown. Reduction in this wastage, particularly if it can economically be avoided, would be of great significance to growers and consumers alike.
Eﬀects of post harvest losses
Both quantitative and qualitative food losses of extremely variable magnitude occur at all stages in the postharvest system from harvesting, through handling, storage, processing and marketing to final delivery to the consumer.
Fruits and vegetables are rich source of vitamins and minerals essential for human nutrition. These are wasted in transit from harvest to consumer represent a loss in the quantity of a valuable food. This is important not only in quantitative terms, but also from the point of view of quality nutrition. Reducing Postharvest losses along all segments of fruit and vegetable value chains presents an opportunity to improve nutrition security by capturing otherwise lost nutrients to channel into the food system and create profitable, accessible and affordable diversified diets.
Careless harvesting and rough handling of perishable bruise and scar the skin, thus reducing quality and market price. Such damaged produce also fails to attract the international buyers, and bring the exporting country less profit and bad name. This ultimately results in huge economic losses to the country.
For improving the situation, it is essential to create awareness among growers, farm workers, manager’s traders and exporters about the extent of losses being incurred and their economic consequences. These groups of people involved in the fruit industry also need to learn the basic principles of fruit handling and storage. In addition, the government needs to provide basic infrastructure like storage, handling, grading, packing, transport and marketing facilities and technical expertise. This could be carried out by the public and private sectors.
There are no generally accepted methods for evaluating postharvest losses of fresh produce. Whatever evaluation method may be used, the result can refer only to the described situation. In the appraisal of an existing marketing operation, the accurate evaluation of losses occurring is a problem. It may be suspected that losses are too great, but there may be no figures to support this view because:
Records do not exist;
Records if available do not cover a long enough period of time;
The figures available are only estimates made by several observers;
Records may not truly represent a continuing situation; for example, losses may have been calculated only when unusually high or low;
Loss figures may be deliberately over or understated for commercial or other reasons in order to gain benefits or to avoid embarrassment.
Consequently, if accurate records of losses at various stages of the marketing operation have not been kept over a period of time, a reliable assessment of the potential costeffectiveness of ways to improve handling methods is virtually impossible, and the marketing position of the grower is difficult to strengthen. It is evident that the grower who wants to reduce his postharvest losses must maintain reliable records.