This rather old book by The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has an interesting, very detailed and clear section on post harvest and processing technology for food security.
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Neither the age ( published 14 year ago ) nor the fact that it focusses on small scale and household processing distract from the usefulness of the information.
The paper addressed the socioeconomic importance of indigenous vegetables, the potential for leafy green vegetables in Cameroon and post harvest losses and processing. Amongst its conclusions are:
The low capital requirements for getting into this market and the relative lack of barriers also meant that this was a competitive market, and earnings were thus, generally low.
Because appropriate packaging was not available, transportation and handling caused physical damage that later resulted in losses.
The sun- dried vegetables were not appealing to consumers because the appearance was unattractive due to re-wetting during drying and possible contamination by flying objects and domestic livestock.
Producing and marketing indigenous vegetables in Cameroon hold great promise to provide a livelihood to the rural and peri-urban poor families through providing employment, and can contribute significantly towards poverty alleviation and food
An informative paper, but does it highlight something about how we in Africa ignore simple things like some packaging and a bit of evaporative cooling storage – are we too unconcerned about quality or does the consumer just not have the money or are we just too lazy. It doesn’t seem to be the money issue because the South African Supermarkets seem to making good business by filling the niche or quality vegetables!
The book is part of a series of manuals for agribusiness managers of producers’ associations. It covers a wide range of topics from basic storage and warehousing to the quality imperative and the application of ICTS to post-harvest handling and marketing.
The manual provides case studies and exercises to compliment the information and very useful data on storage conditions for a wide range of fruit and vegetables. The manual also provides a comprehensive set of references and some practical information on the cost structure of packaging, refrigerated storage, logistics and certification that are interesting when trying to manage agricultural inputs to round the year processing.
This is mainly hurdle technology where shelf stability is achieved by a combination of processes and ingredients rather than a single one. The focus is on water activity rather than moisture and allows the production of more sophisticated shelf stable foods that the traditional sun dried vegetable. The contents of the manual below gives an idea of its breadth and depth.
CHAPTER 1 FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: AN OVERVIEW ON
SOCIO-ECONOMICALAND TECHNICAL ISSUES 3
1.1 Trade and global trends: Fruits and vegetables 3
1.2 Traditional consumption 4
1.3 Economic and social impact 4
1.4 Commercial constraints 5
1.5 Post-harvest losses and resource under-utilization in developing countries 6
1.6 Pre-processing to add value 8
1.7 Pre-processing to avoid losses 8
1.8 Alternative processing methods for fruits and vegetables in rural areas 8
CHAPTER 2 BASIC HARVEST AND POST-HARVEST HANDLING
CONSIDERATIONS FOR FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES 19
2.1 Harvest handling 19
2.1.4 Packing in the field and transport to packinghouse 26
2.2 Post-harvest handling 29
2.2.1 Curing of roots, tubers, and bulb crops 29
2.2.2 Operations prior to packaging 30
2.2.3 Packaging 31
2.2.4 Cooling methods and temperatures 33
2.2.5 Storage 35
2.2.6 Pest control and decay 37
CHAPTER 3 GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR PRESERVATION OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES 39
3.1 Water Activity (aw) concept and its role in food preservation 39
3.2 Intermediate Moisture Foods (IMF) concept 44
3.3 Combined methods for preservation of fruits and vegetables: a preservation concept 46
CHAPTER 4 EXTENSION OF THE INTERMEDIATE MOISTURE CONCEPT TO HIGH MOISTURE PRODUCTS 55
4.1 Preliminary operations 56
4.2 Desired aw and syrup formulation 57
4.3 Example of application 60
4.4 Packaging methods for minimally processed products 74
4.5 Transport, storage and use of fruits preserved by combined methods 75
4.6 Quality control 79
CHAPTER 5 PROCEDURES FOR VEGETABLES PRESERVED BY COMBINED METHODS 83
5.1 Preliminary operations 83
5.2 Combined optional treatments 86
5.3 Packaging methods 91
5.4 Transport, storage and use of vegetables preserved by combined methods 92
5.5 Quality control 95
The manual can be read online or downloaded as pdf files for each chapter.
After all the project to be run at Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (JUCAVM) in Ethiopia, with US$3 million funding from the Canadian International Development Agency is based on the following
“Post-harvest crop losses can range from 30–70 per cent depending on the crop,” says Tessema Astatkie, director of Canada’s Post-Harvest Management to Improve Livelihoods Project, which is a partner of the programme.
“We will initially focus on products currently experiencing higher losses,” says Demeke , director of JUCAVM. These include fruits such as avocado, mango, banana and papaya, as well as leafy vegetables.
But I would like to raise a few issues that must be borne in mind in approaching such a project:
this type of project has been carried out many times, but I am not sure that all the knowledge gained has ever been well collated to assist such a new project
often loss is a result of an imbalance between production and demand – the first approach solution to this is to adjust production rather than spend money and resources on post harvest processing
I have often heard these types of figures questioned – there is no doubt that studies have revealed losses as large as 70% but was this a real loss that could be addresses
technology should seen in its broadest sense here as much can be achieved by simple actions such as handling crops carefuly
the temptation to add value as a way of using crop excesses needs careful consideration not least of all because adding value first of all increases cost especially if packaging is involved
Have we thought about this enough and been innovative enough? Whatever the losses it is of course a large resource.