How To Reduce Post-Harvest Loss For Grain And Crops ?

Post-harvest loss is one of the concerns of food security and global hunger in many countries.While post-harvest losses affect all major crops, including fruits, vegetables, and pulses, losses in rice, wheat, and other cereal grains—which account for 70 percent of all calories consumed8—are particularly striking. For instance, one study estimated that up to 400 million metric tons of grain, or 20 percent of global grain production, were lost in 2018.9.

grain post harvest

In Malawi, 20 percent of maize grain was lost after harvest in 2015, equivalent to 550,000 tons of maize and worth $150 million.10 For smallholder farmers in Asia, rice post production processes from harvesting to milling are estimated to incur losses of 20 to 30 percent of the rice grain produced.11 In the Arab world, 30 percent of cereal production is lost between production and consumption, with one study estimating that 34 percent of the total wheat supply in Jordan is lost, costing the country more than $100 million per year.12 In Brazil, post-harvest grain losses are estimated to range from 5 to 30 percent, mainly driven by poor storage conditions.13 Globally, we estimate that the value of lost grain may be worth up to $60 billion.

There is a lot of waste created in food production called post-harvest loss. Post-harvest loss is the loss of food that occurs after it is harvested.It can be due to spoilage, pests, or poor handling. Post-harvest loss has caused several aspects, yet it still has solutions to reduce the post-harvest loss.
Post-harvest losses in developing countries are often a result of the lack of infrastructure, such as refrigeration, to store and transport food. Small farmers in several developing countries frequently lose up to 40% of their crops owing to insufficient storage. As a result, many farmers sell their products shortly after harvest—when prices are low due to abundant supply—only to repurchase them at higher prices later. In developed countries, post-harvest losses are usually a result of spoilage or pest infestation. Hence, food loss denies the farmers’ potential to expand and enhance their business.

grain storage

A key challenge in reducing grain losses is that the magnitude of post-harvest grain loss varies significantly depending on factors such as geographic location, climate, and the prevalence of pests. In Peru, for instance, where post-harvest losses are estimated to be between 15 and 27 percent, 90 percent of farmers dry their crops in the field, directly on the ground, which exposes them to rodents, birds, and insects.14 Meanwhile, in Thailand, where an estimated 19 percent of cereal grain is lost, the largest fraction of wastage occurs during handling and storage.

During the crop transition from farm to consumer, it has to undergo several operations such as harvesting, grain thresher machine, cleaning, drying, storage, processing and transportation. During this movement, crop is lost due to several factors such as improper handling, inefficient processing facilities, biodegradation due to microorganisms and insects, etc. It is important to understand the supply chain and identify factors at various stages that cause food losses.
Post-harvest loss causes can be divided into two factors: primary and secondary.

post harvest loss
Primary causes

Environmental conditions: temperature and humidity
Mechanical issue: poor handling storage or lack of supporting tools
Microbial action: bacteria or fungi effects

Secondary causes

Long shipping and distribution
Insufficient storage facilities and management
Incomplete drying before threshing
Poor harvesting handling process
Complex market and regulatory distribution

How To Reduce Post-harvest Loss ?

1.Training farmers

Although a lack of equipment and infrastructure is a key constraint, lack of awareness and capacity amongst smallholder farmers should not be underestimated. Training farmers on post-harvest handling and storage of the crops they handle is key to reducing food losses. For example, skills in timing of wheat harvester machine, crop drying, moisture management and safe storage are essential skills that many farmers in developing countries do not have.

2.Enhance harvesting standards

The harvesting procedures, containers, equipment, farm packing, and transit conditions determine post-harvest losses and product quality. Setting an ideal grain crops maturity period is critical for a successful harvest. Harvest ripeness refers to when the grain is ready to be harvest.

crops harvest

3.Do clean and proper sorting

Proper sorting or grading, combined with adequate packing and storage, will improve shelf-life, maintain cleanliness and hygiene, freshness, and quality, and significantly cut losses and marketing costs. Sorting distinguishes between excellent and lousy produce and further classifies the superb grain based on other factors, including size.

4.Improve grain drying equipment

Grain loss due to humidity and temperature is one of the primary areas to address to reduce waste. Properly regulating the moisture and temperature of stored grain is paramount since most spoilage occurs at the storage stage. In grain value chains, most losses in quantity and quality occur during storage and are due to improper grain drying. This can lead to mould damage and aflatoxin contamination, two of the major causes of losses for grains. Helping farmers and farmer organizations to acquire improved drying equipment, from simple tarpaulins and covers, to grain drying equipment and shelters that protect from the rain are in many cases key to reduce food losses.1% decrease in moisture can double the storage lifetime of cereal grain.

grain moisture control
5.Handle crops softly and delicately

Mechanical damage creates entry points for pests and raises physiological losses. As a result, avoid causing mechanical damage to the crop while processing it. Handle all crops softly and delicately to prevent bruising and skin breakage. The epidermis of horticultural items acts as a barrier against the most aggressive bacteria and fungi that cause tissue degradation.

6.Linking farmers to markets

Farmers are not willing to invest and reduce their food losses if they cannot sell their produce and make a profit. Linking producers to profitable markets is another essential step to increase investment in food loss reduction activities.

how to reduce post harvest loss