Worldwide postharvest fruit and vegetables losses are as high as 30 to 40% and even much higher in some developing countries. Reducing postharvest losses is very important; ensuring that sufficient food, both in quantity and in quality is available to every inhabitant in our planet. Proper postharvest processing and handling is an important part of modern agricultural production. Postharvest processes include the integrated functions of harvesting, cleaning, grading, cooling, storing, packaging, transporting and marketing. The technology of postharvest handling bridges the gap between the producer and the consumer - a gap often of time and distance. Postharvest handling involves the practical application of engineering principles and knowledge of fruit and vegetable physiology to solve problems. Utilizing improved postharvest practices often results in reduced food losses, improved overall quality and food safety, and higher profits for growers and marketers. It is estimated that 9 to 16 percent of the product is lost due to postharvest problems during shipment and handling. Mechanical injury is a major cause of losses. Many of these injuries cannot be seen at the time that the product is packed and shipped, such as internal bruising in tomatoes. Other sources of loss include over-ripening, senescence, the growth of pathogens and the development of latent mechanical injuries. Many factors contribute to postharvest losses in fresh fruits and vegetables. These include environmental conditions such as heat or drought, mechanical damage during harvesting and handling, improper postharvest sanitation, and poor cooling and environmental control. Efforts to control these factors are often very successful in reducing the incidence of disease. For example, reducing mechanical damage during grading and packing greatly decreases the likelihood of postharvest disease because many disease-causing organisms (pathogens) must enter through wounds.
IMPACT OF POST HARVEST LOSSES
Too much of the world's food harvest is lost to spoilage and infestations on its journey to the consumer. In developing countries, where tropical weather and poorly developed infrastructure contribute to the problem, losses are sometimes of staggering proportions. Losses occur in all operations from harvesting through handling, storage, processing and marketing. They vary according to the influence of factors such as the perishability of the commodity; ambient temperature and relative humidity which determine the natural course of decay; fungal and bacterial decay; damage by pests -insects, rodents and birds; the length of time between harvesting and consumption; and practices of postharvest handling, storage and processing. Postharvest disorders or losses in quality have economic impacts vastly greater than the actual losses caused by frequency and intensity of their occurrence. For example there are direct financial losses incurred by the grower from batches of fruit expressing the disorder. Direct losses Horticultural produce is alive and has to stay alive long after harvest. Like other living material it uses up oxygen and gives out carbon dioxide. It also means that it has to receive intensive care. For a plant, harvesting is a kind of amputation. In the field it is connected to roots that give it water and leaves which provide it with the food energy it needs to live. Once harvested and separated from its sources of water and nourishment it must inevitably die. The role of postharvest handling is to delay that death for as long as possible.
POST HARVEST LOSSES
Most losses of fresh produce occur between leaving the farm and reaching the consumer. Losses during this period have been estimated to be about 20% of the total crop. These losses may be caused by complete wastage of the product or by lower prices due to a reduction in quality. The cost of these losses is also important as the value of the product increases several fold from the...
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