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The objective of this technical paper is to provide background information on Post Harvest Losses. It highlights some concepts and problems of PHL in cereals and perishable crops, and critical factors governing them. The paper identifies and synthesizes key literature concerning Post Harvest Losses as well some strategies and ways of preventing and reducing these losses. The paper has a special focus on less developed countries where ACF missions intervene.
Today, one of the main global challenges is how to ensure food security for a world growing population whilst ensuring long-term sustainable development. According to the FAO, food production will need to grow by 70% to feed world population which will reach 9 billion by 2050. Further trends like increasing urban population, shift of lifestyle and diet patterns of the rising middle class in emerging economies along with climate change put considerable pressure on the planet’s resources: declining freshwater resources and biodiversity, loss of fertile land, etc. Consequently, there is a need for an integrated and innovative approach to the global effort of ensuring sustainable food production and consumption.
In the meantime, while the number of food insecure population remains unacceptably high, each year and worldwide, massive quantities of food are lost due to spoilage and infestations on the journey to consumers. In some African, Caribbean and Pacific ACP countries, where tropical weather and poorly developed infrastructure contribute to the problem, wastage can regularly be as high as 40-50%. Obviously, one of the major ways of strengthening food security is by reducing these losses.
Along the renewed focus on investment in agriculture that began in 2008, there is an increasing interest in effective intervention for Post-Harvest Losses (PHL) reduction. The investment required to reduce PHL is relatively modest and the return on that investment rises rapidly as the price of the commodity increases.
Nowadays, interventions in PHL reduction are seen as an important component of the efforts of many agencies to reduce food insecurity. PHL is increasingly recognized as part of an integrated approach to realizing agriculture’s full potential to meet the world’s increasing food and energy needs. Therefore, reducing PHL along with making more effective uses of today’s crops, improving productivity on existing farmland, and sustainably bringing additional acreage into production is critical to facing the challenge of feeding and increased world population.
Postharvest loss reduction is of high importance in ACF effort to combat hunger, raise income and improve food security and livelihoods for vulnerable people. For ACF, postharvest and value addition are integral components of strategies to improve agricultural productivity and linkages between farmers and markets. This brief technical paper was developed to highlight some concepts and problems of PHL in cereals and perishable crops, and critical factors governing them. The paper also some strategies and alternatives ways of preventing and reducing these losses.