Five Things You Didn’t Know about Post-Harvest Food Losses

One-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. By preventing smallholder farmers from losing large portions of their crops after harvest, WFP helps increase the availability of food worldwide. This is a vital step toward meeting the world’s growing food needs, and one of the pillars of the Zero Hunger Challenge. Check out these five facts to learn more about post-harvest losses.

1.3 billion tons of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally each year

 In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers can lose up to 30 percent of their crops to post-harvest losses. Food commodities can become damaged, spoiled, or lost while being harvested, handled, processed, stored and transported.

Farmers often use traditional storage made from straw and wood, leaving their crops vulnerable to rain and infestation by insects and rodents. While harvesting and cleaning their crop, they may use antiquated techniques and tools which damage the grain. For rural families, lost food means lost land, labour, water, fertilizer and income. Lost food also deprives farmers of the opportunity to grow and strengthen their businesses.

 

Solutions to post-harvest losses can be simple and affordable

Thanks to WFP’s deep field experience and supply chain expertise, the organization has learned that simple and affordable steps like improving storage infrastructure and implementing good harvest and storage practices can drastically reduce food losses. In turn, this increases the amount of food available for household consumption and local markets, which means improved food security and greater resilience for smallholder farmers.

 

Efforts to improve post-harvest handling can have a big impact on the safety of food consumed

Because smallholder farmers can get a higher price for quality grain, they often retain damaged or dirty food for household consumption. Efforts to improve post-harvest handling can also raise awareness about the dangers of eating damaged food. Training on post-harvest handling and quality control, such sessions on using the Blue Box field testing kit, have proven effective at alerting farmers to negative impact this practice can have on their health.

 

With better post-harvest handling practices, farmers can earn more from their produce

When farmers are able to retain more of their crop at a higher quality, they have more to sell and can earn better prices. With access to improved storage, which maintains the quality of their crops for longer periods of time, they can wait for more profitable market prices. Take it from Esther, a smallholder farmer from Eastern Uganda, who used to sell her crops immediately after harvest to avoid losing her crops. Today, she can store her commodities in order to sell at a later time when prices are more favourable. By improving her storage, Esther also adds value to her crops – meaning they can fetch a higher price!

 

Reducing post-harvest losses can increase the amount of food available worldwide

Post-harvest crop loss is a leading cause of food insecurity for millions of farm families across the world. More efficient production is one of the key ways in which we can meet the world’s growing food needs. Reducing post-harvest losses would increase the amount of food available worldwide without requiring additional resources or placing additional burdens on the environment. If we ensure that this food enters markets, this can play playing a major role in creating a world with zero hunger.

 

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