Post-harvest management practices help to conserve the food value & quality of the harvested commodities for the entire period till it is consumed. Unfortunately, most of our farmers’ understanding and response to the application of post-harvest practices in Fruits & vegetables are poor. To them, the production practices were something that was traditional & inherited. There was no systematic inheritance of the post-harvest practices, although some sporadic understandings were prevalent. On the other hand, the priority of our Agri- R&D &Agri- academics system was too much focused-on crop production to sidetrack post-harvest. It is only in the last decade when the activities around exports & retail gained momentum that post-harvest is getting some attention. We continue to lose a lot of already-produced food because we do not practice appropriate post-harvest practices.
A study by ICAR-CIPHET& PAU indicates, the highest contribution (34%) towards economic loss was from the Fruits & Vegetable sector followed by cereals (22.3%) and livestock produce (20%). As estimated by CIPHET, under the Ministry of Food Processing, the post-harvest losses in F&V account for a value of Rs 31.5 thousand Crore based on the output year 2012-13 and on prices of 2014. Of this Mango, Potato, Banana & Tomato together contribute to 63%. The losses in Mango alone contribute to around 23%. Fruits & Vegetables are highly perishable. These are susceptible to deterioration because of high water content& high level of water activities. Their soft texture is also susceptible to changing environmental conditions.
The major post-harvest losses in mango are on account of immature or over-mature/ ripened harvest, mechanical injuries, spoilage, pilferage, damage by birds, and hailstorms. Murthy et al (2002) assessed the post-harvest losses of Banganapalli mango at the farm to about 15.6% whereas total losses from harvest to consumption have been reported to be in the tune of 29.7% in AP.
Banana loom when cut onto bunches of fingers it should be left a while for the latex to ooze out. Further, it needs to be washed in a fungicide (Bavistin) solution to prevent fungal attack. The water from the bunches needs to be removed before packing. It is advisable to put cushions in packing boxes to prevent pressure damage. There must be enough perforations in the boxes for ventilation & air circulation. Care needs to be taken to protect bananas from transit injury, heat burn & chilling injury. Low temperature hampers the quantity of ascorbic acid and accelerates the chilling injuries because of destruction in the ascorbic acid content caused by the chilling (Miller and Heilman, 1952). Bananas are best stored & transported at the optimum temperature of 13 deg C.
Kinnow a product of Punjab, HR & Rajasthan used to rot in good production years. It was frustrating for Kinnow farmers for the kind of waste the produce used to have. These were not marketed beyond Delhi. Many of the kinnow producers used to sell their orchards at the pre-harvest stage to contractors /traders. Gangwar et al (2007) undertook a study in Punjab on estimating losses in Kinnow mandarin. The aggregate post-harvest loss from orchards to consumers ranged from 14.87% in the Delhi market to 21.91% in the Bangalore market. However, things are changing now, many of the farmers have installed washing, grading & waxing machines. Waxing particularly has helped to improve its life greatly. Today, the reach of Kinnow has improved &one can find these being sold down south in TN.
We can actually improve the fruit & vegetable availability by about 10-15% by managing our post-harvest supply chain. Today there is multiple technologies available that can be utilized to improvise the shelf-life of products.