Hunger in Developing Countries Made Worse by Significant Crop Losses
By Joe De Capua 04 November 2009
are underway to improve agriculture to prevent the kind of food shortages that
were widespread in 2008. But a U.N.
agency says much of the food now being produced in developing countries never
makes it to market. The Food and
Agriculture Organization says crop losses can range from 15 to 50 percent of
FAO says agricultural losses contribute to the world's hunger problem. It's estimated more than one billion people
around the world go hungry every day.
Njie is the agency's senior officer in its agro-industry group.
post-harvest system is a chain of inter-connected activities from the time that
a product is harvested to the point where it is delivered to the consumer," he
Potential problems from
beginning to end
causes of the losses can be found from the time the crops are first planted to
their shipment to market.
do occur because of what are referred to as pre-harvest factors. Secondly, of
Crops are often less hardy if planting is done following drought
harvest conditions. And then thirdly, the handling of the product in the
post-harvest part of the chain," he says.
conditions that exist when seeds are first put into the ground can seal the
fate of the crop.
of the pre-harvest conditions that one could think of is drought. When product is exposed to drought during the
growing cycle, it becomes less hardy," says Njie.
the crop is more susceptible to disease. Too much rain can create similar
even if conditions are conducive to a good crop at planting, losses can occur
during the actual harvest. A lot of
fruit may fall to the ground and become too damaged for sale. Or combine settings may be incorrect, causing
wheat shafts to be shattered.
can also occur during the post-harvest, such as when produce is not kept cold
enough to avoid spoilage.
Losing a little means a lot
losses are estimated to be between 15 and 50 percent in developing countries, and
Njie says even smaller losses have consequences.
An agriculture scientist inspects diseased crops at a research farm near Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (File)
says, "If you lose 5 or 10 percent of your harvest, then it means it is 5
percent or 10 percent less food available to the consuming public. That is the message that we're trying to pass
across here. It has a very, very big
incidence on hunger and the other challenges that we are dealing with in
it's more than just losing crops.
know, you can look at it from the point of view of just the physical loss…. But on the other hand, there are resources
that were put into place in producing what you've lost. It's a waste of resources, productive
resources - fertilizer, human labor – that went into producing whatever you
lost," he says.
FAO says many of the losses can be "significantly reduced" by adequate
training, better packing and transport practices and improved storage
example, a German-funded FAO project in Afghanistan used local labor to build
small hermetically sealed metallic silos.
About 18,000 households received the silos, which protected food against
pests, rodents, birds and fungi. The FAO
says the effect was "immediate," with post-harvest losses falling from a high
of 20 percent to less than one or two percent.
says about 45,000 such silos have been built or distributed in 16 countries.
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