The world population is expected to grow to over 9 billion by 2050, and demand for food will grow by 38 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2050 (Bruinsma, 2009). If the global food system is to keep up with population growth, food production has to increase with an accompanying reduction in postharvest loss. Unfortunately, we currently have unacceptable losses of food (in quantity and quality) along the supply chain, from harvest to consumption (Stuart, 2009). Postharvest losses result in unnecessary hunger and malnutrition, which weakens the immune system and stunts child development. It also results in financial losses for farmers and environmental losses as farmers can't afford to replenish natural resources like land, water and seed.
Despite the remarkable progress made at increasing food production in developing countries, a large percentage of rural populations still have no or very limited access to adequate food supplies due to postharvest losses. Estimates of postharvest losses of staple and perishable foods are put at 25 and 50 percent respectively (FAO, 2011).
Strategies for food security and nutrition in developing countries should examine and build on past progress and encourage stakeholders to focus on scaling up proven solutions to meet the expected challenges. It should emphasize helping smallholder farmers, while also creating a path for development of small-to-medium scale farmers. Below are recommended strategies:
- Developing countries have many agricultural food products; to have the greatest impact, countries should target specific crops (prioritizing those that most contribute to human and economic development of their nations) for postharvest investments.
- Postharvest development requires interdisciplinary and multidimensional approaches from all stakeholders for scientific creativity, technological innovation and commercial entrepreneurship. A platform focused on specific crops could be developed to facilitate interaction and learning, convening actors all along the value chain.
- Reports show that less than 5 percent of agricultural research funding is allocated to postharvest research. To be able to dedicate more time and attention to this critical issue, at least 20 percent of R&D funding should be earmarked for postharvest research.
- The long-term solution to meet these demands will need to involve government assistance. The government (at all levels) should work to further develop the necessary infrastructure, like markets and transport systems.
- Smallholder farmers are essential to food production systems in developing countries, but they often have no means to meet the stringent quantity and quality demands in postharvest. The cost to build and operate storage facilities that would meet such demands may be prohibitive to smallholder adoption. The private sector should be engaged to support these infrastructure, like storage structures, packaging, cleaning, waxing, processing and transporting equipment.