Cold storage; a safe approach for mitigating post-harvest losses and achieving food and nutrition security in the world
Tanzania is among the countries which suffer perennial food shortages due to inherent weaknesses in post-harvest systems which contributes to higher food prices as a result of decreased food supply to the market. Despite being sufficient in domestic food production to meet national food needs, the country’s post-harvest loss is estimated at 40% of the total annual crop production for cereals and even higher for perishable crops. Goal 12.3 under the global food security strategy, calls for halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing post-harvest losses along production and supply chains by 2030.
The largest magnitude of post-harvest losses (PHL) occurs in fruits, vegetables, roots, and tuber crops due to the perishability of these commodities and the poor post-harvest production infrastructure for handling perishable produce across countries. Post-harvest losses may be classified as a quantitative loss, qualitative loss, as well as economic/value loss. PHL disadvantages value chain actors particularly farmers by reducing saleable volumes with correspondingly higher product prices for consumers. In countries where a large portion of perishable agricultural commodities and food products go through extensive cold chains, there are little or minimal post-harvest losses in terms of quality, quantity, or value.
Cold storage is a vital link between the production and consumption of perishable agricultural products. It facilitates the delivery of perishable agricultural products particularly fruits and vegetable from production centers/farms to consumption centers/markets. It extends the market period, shelf life, and maintains the product quality. Cold storage forms the heart of the cold chain business. A fully integrated cold chain will include both backward and forward linkages. As part of cold chain with backward linkages that operate from farm to cold storage, and as part of cold chain with forwarding linkages from cold storage to the final consumer. Cold storages are necessary requirement in the post-harvest storage and distribution function of perishable agricultural commodities and food products. Reducing post-harvest losses is a key to food and nutrition security in the world. For a country like Tanzania where more than 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood, it is necessary to invest heavily in cold storage and warehouse facilities. The cold storage sector in agriculture is beneficial to farmers as well as the whole economy. Mitigating post-harvest losses represents an opportunity to deliver increased income, better health, and a sustainable environment. The advantages of agricultural intensification can only be achieved in the presence of capacity to preserve and market the excess production.
The government of Tanzania in collaboration with other stakeholders developed a 10-year national post-harvest management strategy (2019-2019) that focuses on food crops including fruits and vegetables among others. The strategy intends to provide sufficient interventions that will reduce post-harvest losses and potentially offset food deficits. Accordingly, the strategy aims at facilitating and building the capacity of post-harvest actors to reduce losses, increase income and nutrition security.
Written By: Goodhope Shombe (BSc. Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness, Part-Time Agribusiness Advisor at Rikolto-VECO East Africa-Tanzania & Volunteer of Agribusiness Education and Research International).