This blog carries detailed information about the post-harvest losses and the ways to prevent them.
Post-harvest loss is one of the leading issues threatening the food value chain. Due to these losses, many countries are concerned about food security and global hunger. According to recent studies, a significant increase is observed in fruit and vegetable losses, so it is important to eliminate these losses to sustain the world’s population. This blog will discuss the nature and causes of post-harvest losses and how to prevent them.
Post-harvest losses begin in the field at the time of harvest and continue after harvest in the grading and packing process, during storage, transportation, and wholesale and retail markets. Numerous losses happen due to inadequate infrastructure, a lack of expertise, poor management, a broken market, or just the negligence of farmers.
Causes of post-harvest losses
Harvesting is a crucial unit function that can affect the quality and shelf life of produce and help reduce significant losses of fruits and vegetables. The crop’s maturity level and the weather have an impact on when it should be harvested.
The following are the main reasons for harvest losses: –
- Maturity index– Some crops are harvested before they reach their maturity stage and have been exported to local export markets. Huge losses can occur if produce is not harvested at the right maturity stage.
- Unfavourable weather during harvesting season- impairs the performance of harvesting equipment or human labour and typically impacts the moisture content of the harvested items.
- Loss is also a result of unsuitable harvesting techniques, such as rough handling, harvesting at the wrong time, and using tools, equipment, and containers that are not appropriate or poorly built.
Transportation can be one of the leading causes of losses, especially for fresh items, because it adds a specific amount of time between production and consumption. Other factors, such as inadequate transportation, lack of refrigeration trucks (cold chain transportation), poor roads, and ineffective logistics management, prohibit perishable items from being properly preserved. Furthermore, loading and unloading procedures are carried out in an unsafe manner. Agricultural goods are frequently inadequately packaged and loaded and sometimes thrown into vehicles. Produce losses during transit rise due to the bad roads in the rural areas where the majority of production occurs. This causes mechanical harm to agricultural items.
In grading, the produce is classified into different grades according to their weight, size, colour, form, and disease. Post-harvest losses in the grading phases include several root causes, including a lack of national standards, poor implementation of existing standards, and lack of knowledge, expertise, and financial resources.
Losses due to discarding at the consumer end of the supply chain can occur from a lack of grading. We have all probably seen fruit cart operators throw the leftover fruit and vegetables at the end of the day since their lot was improperly graded and the consumers only chose healthy food, leaving the operators with poorer quality produce. If the produce had been assessed initially, the lower-grade produce might have been used for other things.
Packaging and labelling
Fresh produce is often moved from the field to a packing facility or distribution centre after harvest. Farmers often offer their products in unpackaged form or in bundles at the wholesale level. Fresh produce’s shelf life is significantly shortened by this form of market handling if it is not rapidly sold. Fresh produce cannot be sufficiently protected from damage by low-quality packaging materials, which might even hasten the deterioration of fresh produce. Unfortunately, low-quality packaging materials are frequently used in many regions worldwide due to their low cost.
How can these losses be prevented?
- Setting a fruit and vegetable’s ideal maturity date is crucial for ensuring a successful harvest. Many variables, including sugar content, pH, and acidity levels, are routinely employed to track the fruits’ state of ripeness.
- Horticultural crops may become permanently damaged as a result of improper harvesting techniques. Therefore, harvesting methods must be standardised for each fruit and vegetable to reduce damage during harvest.
- Harvesters should be cautious while handling fruit or vegetables to reduce waste and damage by gently digging, trimming, picking, and handling them.
- Easy-to-handle containers should be chosen by employees picking fruits and vegetables in the field. Many crops are bagged after being harvested. The appropriate harvesting container should be chosen based on the type of fruit or vegetable.
- During transportation, produce should be kept at the best possible temperatures. The most crucial methods for ensuring the quality preservation of perishables are adequate temperature control systems and air circulation systems.
- The cold chain is a logistics system that uses thermal and chilled packing along with logistical planning to keep perishable items in perfect condition from the origin to the site of consumption. This helps to preserve the quality and lengthen the shelf life of these shipments.
- During transit, the product is vulnerable to microbiological contamination, physical or chemical damage, and both. Therefore, it is crucial to managing the transportation environment.
- The goods should be effectively safeguarded regarding their susceptibility to physical injuries.
- The best possible care should be taken during loading and unloading.
- Horticultural produce can be successfully stored using a wide variety of storage structures. Generally speaking, the structure must maintain a cold temperature (refrigerated, or at the very least ventilated and shaded), and the produce placed in storage must be of excellent quality.
- Controlled Environment Storage (CAS), which entails regulating the atmosphere in a storage facility in addition to temperature and humidity, has been found to increase the maintenance of post-harvest quality. Since higher CO2 levels often result in the proliferation of microorganisms, controlled atmosphere storage helps prevent food deterioration from pests and diseases.
The fresh produce’s ability to last after harvest depends significantly on temperature, relative humidity, and ventilation. Therefore, the guidelines for packaging fresh fruit can be summed up as follows:
- Protection against microbial degradation and contamination,
- Protection against physical harm and bruises,
- Prevent the occurrence of weight loss and moisture
- Providing ventilation for respiration and gas exchange,
- Delaying ripening, decelerating respiration and extending storage life.
- Managing the package’s ethylene concentrations
Traditional packing materials may protect fresh fruits and vegetables from external forces to a certain extent. Appropriate packaging materials and cutting-edge packaging technologies must be designed to decrease post-harvest losses and lengthen the shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables. In fact, there are a number of cutting-edge packaging technologies for packing fresh fruits and vegetables. The most powerful advanced packaging technologies are regarded as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), active packaging, and innovative (intelligent) packaging.
Keeping post-harvest losses of fruit and vegetables to a minimum helps to combat poverty, provide food security, and preserve the quality of the produce. While fruit and vegetable losses primarily occur at the consumer end, poor supply chain infrastructure contributes substantially to fresh fruit and vegetable loss in many developing countries. Proper post-harvest innovations and technologies must be used to cut post-harvest losses. Coordination and successful management of post-harvest stages significantly reduce losses and increase farmers’ profits.
How can Fasal assist?
- Fasal is an IoT-based agricultural company that provides end-to-end traceability to farmers.
- Fasal technology is based on the idea of precision agriculture. It assists farmers in predicting the accurate time to harvest their produce in better quality.
- Fasal also helps farmers increase the efficiency of marketable produce by selling their harvest and linking them to prospective buyers.
- The Fasal system enables traders to obtain fresh produce directly from farms and assists in maintaining the consistency of product quality.
- The traders can plan ahead for their products and track their produce with the Fasal system.
- Fasal can help farmers to sell their harvest at better prices along with Sorting, Grading, Packaging, and Logistics facilities.
Farmers may simply prevent produce losses and obtain higher-quality produce with the help of the Fasal system. We are constantly working to improve the lives of farmers.
We would love to talk to you and help you understand more about Fasal.