How to manage post-harvest loss

From Global development | The Guardian Fri Dec 14 2012, 06:51:00

Much of the food grown in developing countries never makes it past the farm gate, contributing to food insecurity. Caspar van Vark reviews the techniques used to address PHL

The need to increase food production has become a policy mantra. Populations are growing, so we need more food. But much of what is produced never makes it past the farm gate, especially in developing countries. Eliminating those losses is a way to increase food availability without requiring additional resources or placing additional burdens on the environment.

Post-harvest loss (PHL) happen at every stage of the supply chain, but in developing countries losses are the most significant. Harvesting, drying and storage are all stages which see substantial losses, both quantitative (physical losses caused by rodents, insects or infestations) and qualitative (loss of quality and value).

The extent of these losses is substantial but measuring them can be notoriously difficult. Estimates range from 5 to 30% or more, and in sub-Saharan Africa alone the value of PHL overall is thought to be around $4bn (£2.5bn) a year. This represents a vast amount of food, along with the wasted cost and effort of producing it.

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