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Why Postharvest Loss

Postharvest loss of agricultural commodities is of utmost concern as populations increase and the world’s land, water, energy, and other resources are in ever-limited supply. The problem of postharvest loss has significant global implications, and as such, is garnering much attention. Recent reports indicate that massive amounts of food are lost annually to postharvest waste. According to a 2011 FAO study (Global Food Losses and Food Waste), "roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year." An FAO/World Bank report (Missing Foods) published in May 2011 said that “[t]he value of postharvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa [are estimated] at around $4 billion a year …. This lost food could meet the minimum annual food requirements of at least 48 million people.” Without successful innovation, the amount of production lost each year will continue to grow.

Countries and governing bodies need to know the numbers and causes behind postharvest losses in order to adopt better forms of postharvest care. Without such information, no action can be taken, thus increasing the volatility of losses and impact on both human life and the environment.

The World Bank issued an updated poverty brief (August 2009) which estimated that in 2004 there were 1.4 billion people living below the international poverty line - defined as US $1.25 per day.

  1. Impacting broader societal issues requires a focus on staple crops that serve as the primary nutritional sources to meet energy and protein requirements for low income populations; and
  2. Postharvest loss in developing countries is much higher than in the US; investment in reducing crop losses internationally would have a much greater impact on efforts to reduce hunger than investment in reducing domestic losses.