Post-harvest loss causes and how to reduce it

post harvest crop loss definition and ways how to reduce it

In our globalized world, we are all interconnected in one way or another. It means that what we do affects other people and the environment somehow. One of the ways we affect the environment is through food production and consumption. There is a lot of waste created in this process, called post-harvest loss. Post-harvest loss is the loss of food that occurs after it is harvested. Food does not get to those who need it because it spoils before reaching consumers. It can be due to spoilage, pests, or poor handling. Post-harvest loss has caused several aspects, yet it still has solutions to reduce the post-harvest loss. 

Post-harvest losses in developing countries are often a result of the lack of infrastructure, such as refrigeration, to store and transport food. Small farmers in several developing countries frequently lose up to 40% of their crops owing to insufficient storage. As a result, many farmers sell their products shortly after harvest—when prices are low due to abundant supply—only to repurchase them at higher prices later. In developed countries, post-harvest losses are usually a result of spoilage or pest infestation. Hence, food loss denies the farmers' potential to expand and enhance their business. Food loss causes can be divided into two factors: primary and secondary. 

Primary causes

  1. Environmental conditions: temperature and humidity

  2. Mechanical issue: poor handling storage or lack of supporting tools

  3. Microbial action: bacteria or fungi effects

Secondary causes

  1. Long shipping and distribution 

  2. Insufficient storage facilities and management 

  3. Incomplete drying before threshing 

  4. Poor harvesting handling process 

  5. Complex market and regulatory distribution 

Food loss is not only counter as a number, but it can be a quality or taste. It may be a qualitative food loss if you find a mushy fruit in a grocery. Qualitative food loss can degrade the food's nutrients, texture, shape, or taste. Commercially, these products will sell for a lower price. Meanwhile, quantitative food losses are the reductions in edible produce mass accessible for personal food across supplier management segments. In short, quantitative food loss is unconsumed food. Pests eating or spoiling the food can cause this quantitative food loss. 

How to reduce post-harvest losses