Cutting post-harvest losses key to food security

Update: December, 13/2014 - 09:41
A farmer harvest grapefruits in Hoa Hiep Commune in the southern province of Vinh Long's Tam Binh District. Agricultural experts said that more investment and technology was needed to improve post-harvest management. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
HCM CITY  (VNS) — The third Asia-Pacific Symposium on Postharvest Research, Education and Extension opened in HCM City on Tuesday with the participation of more than 180 local and international researchers, scientists and business executives from the Asia-Pacific region, the EU and the US.

The biennial event covered all aspects of post-harvest research, processing and preservation of agricultural produce, packaging and storage of agricultural produce, supply chain management and improvement of value chain system for agricultural products, management of quality assurance and food safety.

It also discussed development of agricultural produce for tropical, sub-tropical and temperate regions such as fruit and vegetables, field crops, plantation crops, herbs and spices and ornamentals, training in post-harvest and extension systems, policy for food safety in international trade and international networks of post-harvest research and training organisations.

Bui Van Quyen, general director, Ministry of Science and Technology, said Viet Nam had in recent years paid much attention to developing its agricultural sector and becoming one of the top exporters of major agricultural produce like rice, coffee, pepper, cashew nut, fruits and fisheries.

The symposium offered a good platform for participants to share information on research, education and extension related to new and advanced sciences and technical renovations and findings in post-harvest technologies, he said.

"More importantly, they can find a way to establish networks among organisations and individuals to contribute effectively to the development of agriculture regionally and globally, he said.

"It is also a great opportunity for Vietnamese scientists and businesses to learn about the latest post-harvest technologies and help reduce losses, improve the competiveness of Vietnamese farm produce and at the same time raise farmers' incomes," he added.

Rosa S.Rolle of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said the Asia-Pacific region needed to double its food output to feed an additional one billion people by 2050.

Now post-harvest losses across the region average around 10-15 per cent for grains and 15-50 per cent for horticultural crops.

These losses resulted largely from a weak infrastructural support base coupled with a lack of technical knowledge and organisational capacities among small holder farmers who increasingly faced marginalisation, she said.

Apart from reducing the quality, quantity and value of food, losses resulted in a wastage of resources and reduced returns for small farmers, she added.

Dr Nguyen Minh Chau, former director of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, said post-harvest losses of fruits in Viet Nam, for instance, accounted for 20 per cent of the total output due to inefficient logistics and preservation.

More investment in research and advanced technologies was needed to improve the situation, he said.

Dr Michael Lay-Yee, programme director of the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, also said Viet Nam needed to invest more in post-harvest handling technologies to improve the quality and the shelf life of its farm produce.

"Some of the technologies are very expensive; I think Viet Nam can customise those technologies to make it more reasonable for [its] situation," he said.

Organised by the International Society for Horticultural Science and Viet Nam Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Postharvest Technology in co-operation with Nong Lam University and King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi of Thailand, the event concluded on Wednesday. — VNS