HARVEST LOSS: The country's post harvest loss of fruits and vegetables is more than Rs. nine billion per year due to the absence of proper value-added methods and a stagnant food development technology, industry sources said.
This Rs. nine billion waste is equivalent to 40 per cent of the total fruit and vegetable output in the country. This ultimately impacts the local farmers and consumers, who have to pay through their noses, President of the National Task Force for Minimisation of Post Harvest Losses, Harsha Karunaratna told the Daily News.
He said that at present more than 10 post harvest units in the country are not effective due to the funding problem. Further, the packaging cost is also quite high with the absence of proper incentives from the Government for the purpose of minimizing the post harvest losses in the country.
Karunaratne said that this sector has enormous potential for local and foreign investment if the Government addresses said requirements for the fruit and vegetable industry. Further, the Government should provide proper incentives for packaging industry when transporting them.
When transporting food and vegetable from one end to another they go waste, which needs to be addressed soon to minimise the loss or waste.
Consultant to the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Gerry Jayawardena said that the lack of awareness from farm-gate level to consumers' level resulted in this loss.
He said that our farmers are adopting bad practices when handling their produce due to the lack of awareness and the Government is now in the right direction to popularize best practices.
Director, Agrarian Research Station, Tellijjawila, Dr. Sujatha Weerasinghe said that there is no well-planned mechanism to promote post harvest concepts for the sector, which are developed by the Agriculture Department.
She said that their department has developed many concepts to minimise post harvest losses in especially food and vegetables but no resources to promote them among farmers through farmer organisations.
Dr. Weerasinghe said they are in the process of encouraging people to use different methods of minimising post-harvest waste including movable racks, craters, scientifically developed banana leaves when transporting fruits and vegetables.
Director, Institute of Post Harvest Technology in Anuradhapura Dr. K.B. Palipana said that they have done a loss assessment study to quantify the losses, which are approximately 30 per cent to 40 per cent.
Under the survey they have found that of the total post harvest waste 25 per cent is due to improper packaging system and transportation methods, he said.
As a solution to this the Government has identified the problem and is now in the process of introducing plastic crates at a subsidized price for farmers who are involved in fruits and vegetable cultivation in the country.
According to Dr. Palipana more than 100,000 plastic crates are to be distributed among fruit and vegetable farmers before the end of this year. The total crates requirement for fruit and vegetable sector is 350,000.