In 1975, the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, had made a strong recommendation that post-harvest losses should be cut by 50% by 1985. We are in 2015, 3 decades later the post-harvest losses still account for one-third loss of the overall food produced in this world. Challenges are more pronounced in the developing countries. The most prevalent question connected to the post-harvest loss is: “How can the world adequately feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances social and economic development while reducing pressure on ecosystems, climate, and water resources?”
There was a study done by The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India in 2013 that reflected that West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh collectively incurred an annual post-harvest loss of nearly $10Bn in fruits and vegetables. This study also emphasized that India produces 77 MT of fruits and 150MT of vegetables every year and it is growing by a CAGR of 5-6% however unfortunately 30% of this yield is rendered unfit for consumption.
Sub-Saharan African loses $4Bn to post-harvest losses.
India wastes 21million tonnes of wheat every year.
These are staggering numbers.
All of it is attributed to two words – lack of MECHANIZATION and EDUCATION. The study indicated that dearth of on-farm processing facilities, absence of modern cold storage in the regional/local markets, and more importantly callous attitude towards tackling post-harvest issues are the primary reasons for these losses.
There are different stages where the post-harvest losses occur and 64% of the 1/3rd food that is lost occurs between productions to distribution stages.
You can't manage what you cannot measure. This market has to be IT and Technology-enabled at the subsistence level and multiple extensions in the agricultural vertical have to work together to enhance the education to prevent post-harvest losses and at the same time improve the economic value of the food produced. It has to be done because if not done, social status of millions of people won’t improve. It has to be done because the pressure on the ecosystem, climate and water resources has to be reduced.