Decreasing post-harvest losses the principle problem: Researchers

The biggest problem affecting the country’s agriculture and the agricultural market is post-harvest losses, say experts. Annually, the country loses about Rs 2,40,000 crore through the post-harvest wastage of fruits and vegetables, says , head of the department of nano science and technology, .
“India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, after China. But there are several post-harvest losses from the producer to the consumer,” she says. This is because of the lack of proper harvest practices, transportation and cold storage facilities, she adds. She says that around 35% to 40% of fruit and vegetable produce are wasted.

The department of nano science and technology at TNAU has been trying to reduce post-harvest losses of fruits at all links of the supply chain, say researchers at the department. While the spraying of Enhanced Freshness Formulation (EFF) on mango trees prior harvest and dipping of mangoes and bananas in EFF solution slows down ripening, and control losses at farm level, researchers have come up with methods to control losses in package houses, transportation and retail shops.

The department has devised and patented a technology where EFF is injected into nanofibres, which are coated on a strip of foil or paper or infused in a pellet, which is placed in a fruit carton. “The hexanal in the EFF vaporizes, which is imbibed by the fruits, resulting in increased shelf life,” says K S , professor at the department and the principal investigator of the project.

Also, a transparent film made of nano-cellulose extracted from banana fibre, which is infused with EFF, when used as a cover slows down ripening and brings down losses in tomatoes, said Subramanian.

“We are also working on bringing down losses during transportation. In the vaporization method, hexanal is made to vaporize in a chamber where fruits are kept. This can be done in a truck when the fruits are being carried to long distances,” he adds.

Farmers say such technologies would help them a lot when they export fruits. “It takes 10 days to take fruits by sea to Singapore, 25 for Australia and 28 for the US. If such a technology is used in the container, the losses could be controlled in an easy and effective way,” says P Pugazhendhi, 58, from , who runs a firm which exports fruits.

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