Growing quality food has its own set of challenges, from adopting new technologies to ensuring that growing demand is met. However, there are also difficulties that farmers face long after they have harvested their crops. What happens post-harvest is just as critical, and it could mean the difference between success and failure in delivering quality food to consumers. According to a report by the FAO, global losses of grains are estimated to be 10% to 20% of the total volumes.
Other crops such as cacao and coffee are also at risk, and the need to mitigate such losses becomes more pronounced as more types of crops are affected. One way of doing so is through the benefits of post-harvest management. But what exactly is post-harvest management, and what good can come with implementing its processes? Here are the basics and benefits of post-harvest management that you need to know:
What is post-harvest management?
Post-harvest management refers to how agricultural commodities and products are handled systematically after harvesting. The process begins immediately after a product is taken from the field and ends with its consumption. Post-harvest operations include washing and cleaning, cooling, storage, grading, packaging, transportation, processing, and marketing.
Why is post-harvest management necessary?
Agricultural commodities are susceptible to huge post-harvest losses. Case in point, the Department of Trade and Industry in the Philippines found that the quality and quantity of cocoa bean production output were affected by several limitations, including the need for better post-harvest fermentation and drying techniques.
The goal of post-harvest management processes is to minimize these losses while adding value and improving food safety. Communities can benefit from this through increased sales and the availability of fresh food all year round.
Related: Ways to Improve Food Quality Using Post-Harvest Management
Benefits of post-harvest management
There are many benefits of post-harvest management. Here are the main ones you can expect when implementing these processes for your commodities:
It extends shelf and storage life
Early expiration is the enemy of farmers and suppliers of food commodities. Not only is this costly to deal with, but it can also damage one’s reputation. It also adds to millions of tons of food waste every year.
Food commodities can spend the majority of their life in transit, so farmers and traders must implement steps to extend shelf life. There are several ways to do this, including the following:
● Improvement of treatment and handling procedures
● Monitoring humidity
● Using antimicrobials
● Improvement of packaging
● Maintaining a low temperature
Extending the shelf life using these methods can produce grains and crops of better quality, reduce the number of rejected shipments, decrease food loss and waste, increase margins, and improve brand reputation.
It determines the taste and appearance of food
Whether or not a consumer will choose a grower’s produce is highly dependent on the color, flavor, and texture of the crop. People eat with their eyes, so the size, shape, gloss, and vibrancy of, for example, a coffee bean or cocoa product are important in attracting consumers. The aroma and taste will also matter a great deal, especially in terms of freshness and texture, both of which add to a positive eating experience.
A successful post-harvest management process can ensure that grains and other crops remain fresh and pleasing to the eye. The final product ultimately gives consumers an idea of its quality and determines if they will buy it or not.
It protects commodities from animals and pests
One of the other benefits of post-harvest management is that it allows growers to protect commodities from animals and pests. Solutions such as GrainSafe bags help to prevent insect infestation that can lead to moisture, humidity, and weather that can affect the quality of the stored grain.
This ultimately prevents significant losses, whether in drying, storing, or transporting grains.
It contributes to food security
Post-harvest management technologies can contribute to food security mainly through the reduction of losses and waste. They can reduce post-harvest handling loss to increase the amount of food for farmers and consumers, both rural and urban. Reducing losses this way can lower food prices and improve access to food.
The world population is expected to reach 9.74 billion according to Statista. This means having about 22% more mouths to feed, with the greatest demand growth in the poorest communities. Food supplies will need to increase significantly to meet the high demand in the next few decades. Post-harvest management can address some of these issues by improving food production, distribution, and reducing losses. It is ultimately a critical component in ensuring global food security for the future.
The Bottom Line
Outlining the benefits of post-harvest management is just the beginning. The next steps you take can involve providing solutions to problems like reducing post-harvest losses and improving the quality of commodities in transit. Many technologies in the post-harvest management process can now allow you to solve such problems.
A valuable solution to consider in your process could be hermetic technology. After all, keeping commodities in excellent quality relies heavily on reducing moisture and controlling humidity and temperature. This type of technology uses moisture-tight materials to seal and store commodities, protecting your goods from being damaged or spoiled.
Date Published: March 19, 2023