Reducing Post Harvest Loss

It is a known fact that FAO estimates world population to touch 9 billion by 2050 which means a 70% increase in food production to meet the demand. While we continue to debate on best routes to achieve this target, we often to forget that 1.3 billion tonnes (that is approximately 1/3rd of food produced) of food is wasted every year around the world. This is due to food wasted (food that you and I leave on our plate and through away) and food loss (which is due to many inefficiencies in our supply chain management). Also, food loss can be quantitative (decreased weight or volume), or qualitative (reduced nutrient value etc).

While food wastage is a complex issue- those including moral issues, food loss has to do with the processes followed in agriculture. Through this post, I will highlight the impact of manual interventions in post harvest processes which are leading to almost 10-30% of crops being lost at post harvest stage. From manual threshing to sun drying, open storage to village milling- these practices are leading to huge crop loss at every stage. In India alone, the statistics for post harvest loss are shocking!

There is a huge social and economic burden because of the post-harvest loss which cannot be ignored if we aim to feed 9 billion people in just 3 decades from now. Today, India sees 23 million tonnes of food cereals lost at post harvest stage, along with 12 million tonnes of fruits and 21 million tonnes of vegetables. As per Ministry of Food Processing, this loss has an economic burden of Rs. 580 Billion every year!

There is an urgent need to streamline these processes so that the huge burden of increasing food demand can reduce on our farmers. By using innovative solutions, we need to strengthen infrastructure and supply chains, and improve market connectivity. One such that I find impressive is the Hermetic Storage innovations. This airtight storage option is most effective for cereal, pulses and coffee where these crops are stored in airtight structures. In many developing countries, these practices have reduced post harvest loss to as low as 1% even in long distance shipments. Studies by World Food Program have also established that these storage techniques have been effective in killing pests and insecticides as well.

Also, as this space has been long left to just the Government to action, there is a huge potential for young agripreneurs to step in and provide innovative solutions. Many farmers in developing countries do not have the means to invest in warehousing or storage facilities, and this needs to be tackled at the earliest. One such social enterprise in Rwanda is doing interesting work to overcome this challenge. Sarura Commodities calls its work a “warrantage” model. They collect beans from small farm landowners and pays them in two portions- 60% of market price at peak harvest and remaining at post-harvest price.

More such models need to be created for Indian farmers by mobilizing the ecosystem to focus on these inefficiencies. If we are able to streamline these processes, we will be able to improve the availability of food today and tomorrow, helping achieve the goals of food security.

By Mr.Chandra Joshi, Marketing, Mahyco