FAO working to reduce post-harvest food loss in CARICOM

Reducing food loss and wastage is critical to improving global food security. Yet, thousands of dollars in food are wasted every year in the Caribbean due to poor practices or inadequate facilities for storage or packaging, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Furthermore, the Caribbean region also suffers from an insufficient emphasis on recording post-harvest losses, resulting in a paucity of data to calculate the percentages of these losses.

A project under FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme aims to change this troubling situation by reducing post-harvest losses along the food chain in the CARICOM Sub-region.

A project under FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme aims to change this troubling situation by reducing post-harvest losses along the food chain in the CARICOM Sub-region.

Under the project, FAO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management of Barbados, hosted a Trainer-of-Trainees workshop on Post-harvest Loss Reduction with emphasis on Cassava and Tomatoes. The week-long workshop was held at the Baobab Tower, Warrens, St. Michael.

At the Opening Session, Dr Vyjayanthi Lopez, FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Officer, stated that in developing countries, more than 40% of losses are incurred at post-harvest handling and processing stages and a similar percentage at the retail and consumer levels. “These high figures show the importance of the reduction of food loss and waste if we have to improve the global food security and raise farmer incomes. If left unabated, food losses and waste can have great impact on food security, food quality and safety, and economic development and the environment“, remarked Dr Lopez.

Two experienced FAO Consultants, Dr Majeed Mohammed of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine and Mr Kelvin Craig of Guyana facilitated the workshop and provided training to extension officers and researchers on how to conduct an in-depth analysis of post-harvest practices of cassava and tomato.

Participants were also able to gain a more complete understanding of the system-wide nature of the quality of deterioration and subsequent losses of crops in order to formulate appropriate solutions for quality management and loss reduction strategies at various Critical Loss Points in the post-harvest handling system.

Mr Farnum, the Chief Acting Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, acknowledged the fact that it was important to seek to minimize losses, and also be “mindful of any potential that may exist for the utilisation of good quality product which may be slightly bruised, for product mashes, for shredded products, as well as the potential for the utilisation of such products for animal feeds.” He encouraged the participants to “seek ways to maximize economic benefits which can come from alternate uses of such valuable resources.”

Mr Farnum also encouraged participants to assist persons at the various levels of the value chains to avoid the scale of economic losses experienced in the post-harvest value chain, to benefit not only the agricultural community but the various levels of value chains.

To date, training activities have been completed in 8 countries, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Training events are also scheduled for St. Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Dominica, followed by Belize and The Bahamas. The training has covered a range of crops such as onions, tomato, dasheen, plantain, sour sop, cassava, pineapple, sweet potato, pumpkin, papaya and yard long beans. Other crops being covered include corn and hot pepper.

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