Juhi Ranjan, PhD Research Scholar
 ICAR-IARI, New Delhi
Ramesh Sahni, Scientist 
ICAR-Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Bhopal
Ramya, C.S. ICAR
Indian Agricultureal Research Institute, New Delhi

India is a prominent global producer of fruits and vegetables, grapples with a significant issue that undermines its agricultural prowess: post-harvest losses. Despite abundant production, an estimated 30-40% of fruits and vegetables are lost between harvest and consumption due to several factors including inadequate infrastructure, subpar transportation, limited knowledge of post-harvest handling, market inefficiencies, and technological gaps. These losses have profound consequences, spanning economic setbacks for farmers, compromised food security, environmental degradation, and market instability. Addressing this challenge requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing improved infrastructure, education, technology adoption, market reforms, and government initiatives. By strategically mitigating post-harvest losses, India can elevate its agricultural productivity, ensure food availability, and pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient food supply chain.

Agricultural is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India’s population. Share of agriculture and allied sectors in GDP surged to 19.9% in 2020-2021, up from 17.8% in 2019-20. Food grain production hit a new high of 296.65 million tonnes in 2019-20. As per third advance estimates for 2020-21, total food grain production in the country is estimated at a record 305.44 million tonne (MoA& FW, 2021). India is the world’s largest producer of fruits and world’s second largest producer of vegetables (Ranjan,2023). Horticulture production is reached around 326.58 million tonnes in 2020-21. Fruits and vegetables are perishable commodities. Total losses in fruits is about 20-30% and in vegetables it is about 30-35% due to their highly perishable nature (Chadha, 2001; Basediya et al., 2013).The main reason of these losses is lack of post-harvest storage and processing facilities(Ranjan,2023). If vegetables and fruits are maintained safely, they have a promising future in terms of export. Farmers will also be safeguarded from a great financial loss. This will also help to achieve the goal of doubling farmer’s income.

Wastage of horticultural produce is a big concern for nation’s economy. About 1/3rdof the food produce (about 1.4 billion tons) in the world, fit for human consumption, is wastedevery year. An estimated sum of US$ 1 trillion is lost annually during the post-harvest operations and post-harvest treatments (Sawicka,2019). In fact, the extent of loss of the perishables particularly fruits and vegetables have been alarming. These perishables are susceptible to damage and have a very short shelf life particularly in hot weather conditions prevailing in most part of the country. Huge post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables are a matter of vital concern for India’s agricultural sector too.

Major Consequences of Post-Harvest Losses:

1. Economic Impact:

Farmers' Income Reduction: Post-harvest losses directly hit farmers' income as a significant portion of their hard work and investment goes to waste. This leads to decreased profits and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in rural communities.

Reduced Agricultural Contribution to GDP: Wasted produce means lost revenues for both farmers and the government, resulting in lower contributions from the agricultural sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

2. Food Security Concerns:

Nutritional Shortfalls: Post-harvest losses result in reduced availability of nutritious fruits and vegetables, leading to deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in the diet.

Increased Vulnerability: Food insecurity is heightened when produce that could have contributed to feeding the growing population is lost, making vulnerable communities more reliant on uncertain food supplies.

3. Environmental Degradation:

Resource Wastage: The resources invested in cultivating lost produce—such as water, land, fertilizers, and energy—go to waste, contributing to unnecessary environmental stress.

Carbon Footprint: Disposal of spoiled produce generates greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change, and further impacting the environment.

4. Market Instability:

Price Fluctuations: Uneven supply due to post-harvest losses leads to market price volatility, impacting both consumers and producers by creating uncertain pricing environments.

Income Inconsistency: Farmers' incomes become unpredictable due to market instability, making financial planning and investment challenging.

5. Loss of Economic Opportunities:

Employment Effects: Post-harvest loss impacts the demand for labor, as less produce means fewer jobs in transportation, packaging, and market activities.

Investment Deterrence: High post-harvest losses discourage investments in agriculture, impeding modernization and technological adoption in the sector.

6. Resource Inefficiency:

Water and Energy Waste: Lost produce represents squandered resources used for irrigation, fertilization, and other inputs, exacerbating water scarcity and energy inefficiency.

Land Misuse: When agricultural land is used to produce crops that eventually go to waste, it contributes to the inefficient use of valuable agricultural land.

7. Social and Health Implications:

Health Impact: Lower availability of fresh produce due to losses negatively affects the overall health and well-being of the population, leading to a rise in diet-related health issues.

Reduced Livelihood Opportunities: Post-harvest losses limit job creation opportunities in food processing, storage, and transportation, impacting rural livelihoods.

8. Food System Resilience:

Supply Chain Disruption: Excessive losses disrupt the food supply chain, leading to shortages and inflation in food prices during lean seasons or periods of supply disruption.

Dependency on Imports: When domestic losses are high, reliance on imported produce increases, affecting the nation's food security and foreign exchange reserves.

9. Environmental Impacts:

Landfill Burden: The disposal of spoilt produce contributes to landfill waste, putting pressure on waste management systems and increasing the environmental burden.

Energy Use: Energy spent on producing, transporting, and distributing lost produce becomes wasted energy with no returns.

10. Sustainability Concerns:

Sustainability Goals: High post-harvest losses counteract efforts towards achieving sustainable development goals, including zero hunger, responsible consumption, and climate action.

Comprehensive Strategies to Reduce Post-Harvest losses:

1.Improved Infrastructure:

Cold Storage Facilities: Build and maintain cold storage units across the country to store perishable produce at optimal temperatures, extending their shelf life.

Refrigerated Transportation: Invest in refrigerated trucks and transport networks to ensure the produce remains fresh during transit from farms to markets.

Packaging Innovation: Develop eco-friendly packaging materials that safeguard produce from physical damage, moisture, and contamination.

2. Education and Training:

Training Programs: Conduct workshops, seminars, and training sessions for farmers, handlers, and other stakeholders to disseminate knowledge about best post-harvest practices.

Technology Awareness: Raise awareness about the benefits of advanced technologies like modified atmosphere packaging, cold storage, and quality control methods.

3. Adoption of Modern Technologies:

Cold Chain Management: Implement a robust cold chain infrastructure that includes temperature-controlled storage, transportation, and distribution.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging: Use modified atmosphere packaging to extend shelf life by controlling the composition of gases around the produce.

Ethylene Management: Employ technologies to regulate ethylene concentrations, delaying the ripening process and extending freshness.

4. Strengthening Supply Chains:

Coordination and Collaboration: Enhance coordination among farmers, processors, distributors, and retailers to reduce delays and improve efficiency.

Quality Control: Implement strict quality control measures at various points in the supply chain to ensure only high-quality produce reaches consumers.

5. Market Reforms:

Direct Selling Mechanisms: Promote farmers' direct interaction with consumers through farmer markets, online platforms, and community-supported agriculture.

Price Stabilization: Develop mechanisms that stabilize market prices, reducing the pressure on farmers to sell quickly and at lower rates.

6. Government Policies and Incentives:

Financial Support: Provide subsidies, grants, and financial incentives for the establishment and maintenance of cold storage and other post-harvest infrastructure.

Research and Development: Allocate funds for research and development initiatives focused on post-harvest management and preservation technologies.

7. Adoption of Best Practices:

Hygiene and Sanitation: Educate farmers and handlers about maintaining cleanliness during harvesting, handling, and storage to prevent contamination.

Proper Handling Techniques: Train workers in gentle handling methods to minimize physical damage and bruising during transportation and distribution.

8. Technological Innovation:

IoT and Traceability: Implement Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and traceability systems to monitor and track the journey of produce, facilitating quality control.

Data Analytics: Utilize data analytics to predict demand, optimize supply chains, and enhance decision-making.

9. Research and Knowledge Dissemination:

Scientific Research: Invest in research to develop solutions tailored to Indian conditions, addressing specific challenges in post-harvest management.

Information Sharing: Establish platforms for sharing knowledge, best practices, and success stories among farmers, organizations, and stakeholders.

Tackling post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables in India is not just a problem; it's an opportunity. An opportunity to transform wastage into wealth, to enhance food security, and to safeguard our environment. It's a chance to fortify the agricultural sector, increase farmers' incomes, and ensure that the bounty of our fields reaches every table.By maintaining optimal temperature and humidity levels, storage not only enhances the longevity and quality of produce but also supports the broader goals of minimizing wastage, bolstering farmers' livelihoods, and contributing to the vision of a sustainable and prosperous agricultural sector.The battle against post-harvest losses is not a solitary struggle – it's a collective endeavour that requires the efforts of farmers, policymakers, organizations, researchers and individuals like us. Let's strive to create a future where India's agricultural abundance is celebrated not just for its yield, but also for its impact on lives, livelihoods, and the environment.


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Chadha, K. L. (2001). Handbook of horticulture. Handbook of horticulture.

MoA&FW (2021). Annual report 2017-18. Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India. page (1). www.agricoop.nic.in.

Ranjan,J.(2023).Post-harvest storage structures for fruits and vegetables in India. Ropan, 11(3): CHHBIL/2020/79641

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