Skip navigation

Reducing postharvest losses in the OIC member countries

Reducing postharvest losses in the OIC member countries

Tomlins, Keith, Bennett, Ben, Stathers, Tanya, Linton, John, Onumah, Gideon, Coote, Hilary, Kleih, Ulrich, Priebe, Jan and Bechoff, Aurelie (2016) Reducing postharvest losses in the OIC member countries. COMCEC Agricultural Working Group. pp. 1-194.

PDF (Publisher's PDF - Open Access)
16153 TOMLINS_Reducing_Postharvest_Losses_2016.pdf - Published Version

Download (6MB) | Preview


It is universally understood that postharvest losses are high, particularly in less developed economies, and that this is an issue of keen interest to researchers, practitioners and policy makers alike. Postharvest losses are defined by COMCEC as food damage or degradation of food during different stages of the food supply chain that are incurred between the farm-gate and prior to retail and consumption.

Highlights of this report.
• Clear evidence of substantial postharvest losses across all Members and commodity groups and these are similar to those reported in non-OIC Member Countries. Figures are estimates though.
• Pockets of high physical losses identified: e.g., fruit and vegetables, root and tuber crops and meat and meat products
• High economic losses for cereals and fish and fish products
• Nutrition losses were rarely reported but for cereals in Sub-Saharan Africa losses could be equivalent to the annual caloric requirement of 48 million people
• Weak policy support to effecting loss reduction strategies almost universal
• Limited on-going measurement of postharvest losses means impact of innovation and policy was hard to measure

This analysis of postharvest losses in the OIC Member Countries, conducted by a team from the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich between January and July 2016, sought to provide ways to contribute to reduced postharvest losses. The analysis sought to identify approach and practices, and policy recommendation for future investments. The methods used were a combination of a brief literature review, an on-line survey of key informants, and a series of commodity specific case studies that included three field visits. The scope of the study included all OIC Member Countries, all three official Regional Groups of OIC Member Countries (African, Asian and Arab), and representation from seven commodity groups (cereals, roots and tubers, oilseeds and pulses, fruit and vegetables, meat and meat products, milk and dairy products and fish and seafood). Field visits were conducted in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Oman. A conceptual framework was developed from knowledge of the literature and the challenges and complexities of measuring postharvest losses.

The postharvest physical losses in OIC countries reported by commodity group for the literature review, online survey and case/field studies suggested that they were not that different from the global losses for each commodity that the authors extracted from FAO data. For cereals, root and tuber crops, oilseeds and pulses, fruit and vegetables, meat and meat products, milk and dairy products and fish and fish products, the extrapolated losses from FAO data was 12-15%, 22-34%, 15-38%, 11-12% and 16-25% respectively. Compared to this, the range found from the OIC study was 9-48%, 7-50%, 14%, 3-65%. 6-40%, 2-30% and 3-50% respectively. Although the spread is wider that the estimates from FAO reports, it is considered to be consistent. Thus the postharvest losses in OIC countries are not that different from elsewhere. Some commodities and countries are well covered (e.g. maize in Uganda), but most are poorly analysed in existing research, with some significant knowledge gaps identified (e.g., some countries with little or no literature, other commodities under researched).

The postharvest economic losses were less consistently reported and difficult to compare with the global situation due to differences in reporting (monetary amounts or percentages), different sizes of economies and differing product values. For example, postharvest losses were considered large and the order of US$1 to 4 billion and US$4.8 billion per annum for cereals (Egypt and Uganda) and fish (Indonesia) respectively but as low as US$8 to 21 million per annum for tomatoes in Bangladesh. This probably reflects the difficulties in estimating losses as well as valuation.

The least known/understood postharvest loss in our analysis was regarding the quality/nutrition losses and was limited to calories in cereals to vitamin A for biofortified cassava. Such information will be critical for countries suffering from nutrition deficiency.

Bringing together the estimates for physical, economic and quality/nutrition losses in the OIC Member Countries along with comparisons with the global situation has highlighted a few lessons and gaps. The bulk of the information obtained from the literature review, online survey and case/desk studies concerned the physical losses. This is probably because physical losses are easier to estimate either by direct measurement or by visual inspection. It should be noted however, that all are estimates and few studies are quantitative. Much less was reported concerning the economic losses and the amounts will differ markedly from one value chain for another, even for the same product and commodity. This, therefore, is an area of research that would require more inputs and due to the high cost of undertaking such work, the target value chains would need to be selected according to economic contribution to the OIC Member Country. In all cases the monetary cost of the losses was significant but it was not always known how the costs were estimated. If the monetary losses could be captured, this will lead to benefits for the consumer and actors in the value chain along with potential benefits to national balance of payments. The least known was regarding the quality/nutrition losses but such information may be critical for countries suffering from nutrition deficiency, particularly calories and vitamins.

Key findings concerning specific postharvest research issues was sparse and geographically scattered. Some commodities have a greater coverage than others (e.g. artisanal fisheries and maize are far more researched that cattle or bananas). Some OIC Member Countries and regions have seen much more postharvest loss research and practice than others. For example, the Africa Group and low income countries has seen more support, probably from donors, which has been driving postharvest loss research. Commodity specific findings are reported and these relate to the product characteristics, uses and markets they each fall into. For example for the cereals, the challenges were related mainly to drying and storage, especially related to pests in store, whereas for other root crops peeling, storage and marketing were the highest postharvest loss elements reported. For oilseed and pulses, key issues related to storage largely due to the impact of storage pests. For fruit and vegetables, the issue was the high perishability and ease of damage. Meat and meat products issues related to high transport losses for live animals are often a factor of distance to market or slaughter and the absence of infrastructure including adequate cold chains. For milk and dairy products, key issues were related to the need to upgrade the milk and dairy value chains, particularly setting standards, organising farmers and supporting the emergence of cool-chains. Lastly for fish and fish products, the key issues related to postharvest losses in aquaculture. Investments in cold chains and improved postharvest handling could substantially reduce postharvest losses and food safety concerns.

A range of common challenges were identified. These include the underestimation of the impact of rodents on losses, the importance of the impact of actions taken on farm that can affect postharvest losses, the impact of toxins such as aflatoxin, the benefit from development of cold-chain infrastructure and the existence of policies supporting strategic crops has, in some cases, led to a history of under-investment in postharvest management by the private sector. The impact of gender also appears to have under investigated or reported.

A range of common solutions were identified on the farm, in the postharvest value chain and ones that were systemic such as rules and standards, capacity and training etc. For example breeding to improve the storability of fruit and vegetables and root and tuber crops would reduce losses, early quality differentiation to improve marketability etc. A number of examples of best practice were given related to ownership, the value of ICT technology, investment for stored fruit and vegetables and sharing information via mobile phones, strategic investment such as cold chain infrastructure, the emergence of new industries from waste, multi-actor collaboration and the importance of national loss-reporting systems (for example APHLIS and Indonesian Fisheries Sector).

A number of policy recommendations were suggested to advise OIC Member Countries locate and quantify postharvest losses. These focused on the need for establishing national postharvest loss reduction coordination approaches, establishing consistent methods, sharing best practice and promoting system wide efforts, promoting capacity building and sharing among OIC Member Countries, facilitating local, national and, potentially, regional multi-stakeholder commodity platforms etc. Lastly, to overcome the challenge that postharvest losses is generally more complex than pre-harvest losses due to the greater diversity of products and end uses and markets that the products are directed at a strategy for prioritise which commodity groups and value chains are most important at the national level was suggested.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: COMCEC is the "Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation"
Uncontrolled Keywords: Postharvest losses; Islamic states; Agriculture; Cereals; Fruit; Vegetables; Dairy; Meat; Fish; Root and tuber crops; Polic
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Development Studies Research Group
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2017 15:05
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: GREAT a
Selected for GREAT 2018: None

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics