Topic 1 Introduction
Topic 1: Post Harvest Technology
Despite the remarkable progress made in increasing food production at the global level, approximately half of the population in the Third World does not have access to adequate food supplies. There are many reasons for this, one of which is food losses occurring in the post-harvest and marketing system. Evidence suggests that these losses tend to be highest in those countries where the need for food is greatest. Both quantitative and qualitative food losses of extremely variable magnitude occur at all stages in the post-harvest system from harvesting, through handling, storage, processing and marketing to final delivery to the consumer. Estimates of the post-harvest losses of food grains in the developing world from mishandling, spoilage and pest infestation are put at 25 percent; this means that one-quarter of what is produced never reaches the consumer for whom it was grown, and the effort and money required to produce it are lost-forever. Fruit, vegetables and root crops are much less hardy and are most quickly perishable, and if care is not taken in their harvesting, handling and transport, they will soon decay and become unfit for human consumption.
Estimates of production losses in developing countries are hard to judge, but some authorities put losses of sweet potatoes, plantain, tomatoes, bananas and citrus fruit to as high as 50 percent, or half of what is grown. Reduction in this wastage, particularly if it can economically be avoided, would be of great significance to growers and consumers alike. To reduce these losses producers and handlers must first understand the biological and environmental factors involved in deterioration. And second, use postharvest techniques that delay senescence and maintain the best possible quality.
What is Post-Harvest Technology?
Post-harvest technologies constitute an inter-disciplinary science and techniques applied to agricultural commodities after harvest for the purpose of preservation, conservation, quality control/enhancement, processing, packaging, storage, distribution, marketing, and utilization to meet the food and nutritional requirements of consumers in relation to their needs. Post-harvest technology stimulates agricultural production, prevents post-harvest losses, improves nutrition and adds value to agricultural products thereby opening new marketing opportunities and generating new jobs while stimulating growth of other related economic sectors. The process developing post-harvest technologies requires an interdisciplinary and multidimensional research approach, which includes scientific creativity, technological innovation, and commercial entrepreneurship and stakeholder inputs.