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Post harvest handling of veggies, fruits: IPHT pilot project successful

"Stakeholders in the supply chain of vegetables and fruits are adopting better methods of post harvest handling. The usage of plastic baskets to transport vegetables and fruits is increasing", said Director of the Institute of Post Harvest Technology (IPHT) Dr. Swarnashika Thilakarathne.

Extremely high post harvest losses estimated around 30-40 percent of the production was a main concern of the institute since 2000. In our research we identified that significant amounts of the fruits and vegetable harvest is demolished during transportation using traditional methods such as gunny bags and polythene bags. We studied quantity losses of various vegetables during transportation from Keppetipola to Manning Market, Colombo.

We introduced plastic baskets as an alternative to transport vegetables and it was found that quantity loss can be reduced from around 20 percent to five percent. In 2007 we launched a pilot project and distributed plastic baskets at a subsidised price for identified farmers, collectors and transporters and as they have realised its advantage and the demand for plastic baskets is increasing.

"The stakeholders of the supply chain of fruits and vegetables have now realised that this method of transportation is profitable despite that the quantity that can be packed in a lorry is lower compared to the traditional method. We have introduced four plastic baskets in different sizes suitable for different vegetable and fruit varieties", she said.

Dr. Thilakarathne said that post harvest handling throughout the supply chain should be analysed and best practices have to be introduced. The process starts at harvest time. Maturity of the vegetables, harvesting time of the day and temperature, grading or selection of the harvest, heat build up and respiration, ethylene production and ventilation are aspects that have to be considered.

Farmers and other stakeholders of the supply chain do not have knowledge to handle these live products and as a result they earn lower profits while consumers have to pay higher costs for low quality products.

The IPHT has already distributed 140,000 plastic baskets and has trained 7000 people in the supply chain under this pilot project and the project ends this year. The farmers who supply vegetables to a leading supermarket chain and the Sri Lanka Army are using the baskets for transportation of vegetables and fruits and they are benefiting.

However, still it is a small fraction of vegetables delivered to Colombo, Dambulla and other economic centres and wholesale markets that are transported using plastic baskets. Use of plastic baskets for transportation of vegetables was made mandatory by the government from March 01.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture decided to provide baskets at a subsidised price. According to estimates another 400,000 baskets are needed to shift the vegetable and fruit transportation to this new method.

However, by the end of last week the bulk of vegetables were transported using traditional methods.

Courtesy: SundayObserver

Posted on Sunday, March 06, 2011 @ 13:15:52 LKT by

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