Extent and Possible Causes of Post-harvest Losses
The causes of post-harvest losses can be classified into two main categories.
Physical losses can be caused by mechanical damage or insect or disease damage resulting in damage to the product’s tissue to an extent where it is no longer acceptable for presentation, feeding, or processing.
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Physical damage can also arise from the evaporation of water in the cells, causing direct loss of weight. As a result, there is an economic loss due to the less quantity of available products for marketing, sometimes a whole set of goods can also be rejected because it contains some amount of wasted items.
Loss of quality after harvesting is the second cause of loss, and may be due to physiological and compositional changes that change in appearance, taste, texture, and become less aesthetic as they reach the consumer.
Changes can also arise from the normal metabolism of the produce (eg senescence) or abnormal events (eg crop injury) that arise from after post-harvest environment.
This leads to economic losses as such products get lower prices. In many markets, even at low prices, there is no demand for second-tier production, causing a total economic loss, although second-tier goods may still be edible.
The causes of post-harvest losses can be divided into different categories:
- Parasitic diseases
- Physiological deterioration
- Lack of market demand
All fresh horticultural crop products are living organisms. These include the breakdown of food stores by the natural process of respiration and the aging of these organs.
Due to their soft texture and high moisture, fresh fruits and vegetables are susceptible to mechanical injury. Poor handling, inappropriate containers, improper packaging, and transportation can easily cause injury, cut, break, bruise, and other forms of injury.
These include sprouting, roots, and seed germination, which lead to a decline in quality and nutritional value.
Most of the post-harvest damage is caused by the invasion of fungi, bacteria, insects, and other organisms.
Microorganisms readily attack fresh produce and spread quickly, as the product lacks a natural defense mechanism and contains enough nutrients and moisture to encourage microbial growth.
Fruit and vegetable cells are alive after harvesting and continue their physiological activities. Physiological disorders can occur due to mineral deficiency, low or high-temperature damage, or undesirable atmospheric conditions, such as high humidity, physical degradation can also occur spontaneously by enzymatic action leading to over ripening and senescence, simple aging the occurrence.
Lack of market demand
Poor planning according to production and market misinformation can lead to overproduction of some fruits or vegetables that cannot be sold on time. This situation often occurs in areas where transportation and storage facilities are inadequate. If the farmers are unable to take it to the far-flung people, the produce may rot in the production areas.
These losses can be due to inadequate preservation methods at home, cooking methods, and preparation such as peeling, consumption style, etc.
- Lack of clear concept of packing house operation.
- Lack of awareness among producers, contractors, and even policymakers.
- lack of infrastructure.
- Inadequate post-harvest quality control.
- Unorganized Marketing.
- Lack of pre-cooling.
- Inadequate market facilities, market knowledge, and market information service (MIS)
- Poor storage facility.
Effects of post-harvest losses
- Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins and minerals necessary for human nutrition.
- These are wasted in transit from crop to consumer, and represent a loss in the quantity of valuable food.
- It is important not only from the quantitative point of view but also from the point of view of quality nutrition.
- Careless harvesting and improper handling lead to scratches on the fruit and rind which somehow reduces the quality and market value.
- Such damaged produce also fails to attract international buyers and gives less profit and notoriety to the exporting country.
- This ultimately results in huge economic loss to the country.