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UN urges Asia to cut post-harvest losses

Countries like the Philippines need to improve the handling of crops, particularly by minimizing post-harvest losses, as this would boost efforts toward food self-sufficiency, as well as enhance the competitiveness of goods in the global market.

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (Unido), Asian countries must focus on steps to curb such losses as these shave off about a third of domestic agricultural produce.

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In a joint workshop with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretariat held in Jakarta last week, Unido cited studies that show post-harvest losses in Asia are estimated at around 30 percent of yearly food production, valued at $5 billion.

Worldwide, losses range from one-third to one-half of total production, which means at least 100 million tons of food is lost every year.

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Such waste was attributed to “limited attention given to the constraints of farm inputs, food preservation and distribution, mechanization/productivity, processing, packaging, handling, storage and marketing infrastructure.

“[There is a] critical need of addressing the improvements of food supply chain with specific emphasis on the reduction of post-harvest losses,” Imran Farooque, Unido representative to Indonesia, said in a statement.

Somsak Pipoppinyo, director of finance at the Asean Secretariat’s economic community department, said reduction of post-harvest losses will not only help address concerns on food security but also enhance competitiveness of agricultural products.

In rice-producing countries—like the Philippines—all over Asia, rodents are blamed for the loss of 6 percent of production, which is equivalent to the amount that 225 million Asians consume in a year.

However, post-harvest losses refer not only to loss in volume but also to the value of food in terms of diminished nutritional value and physical condition.

Data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization show that post-harvest losses of rice across Asian countries have been estimated at 10–15 percent of volume.

When combined with the loss of quality, the total loss is about 25–50 percent at the market, according to the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.

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According to the Thailand-based Asean Food Security Information and Training Center, the Philippines is one of five countries in the region that cannot produce all the rice that is consumed within the country. The other four are Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.

In 2010 and 2011, domestic rice production in the Philippines fell short of demand by 1.58 million tons and 1.25 million tons, respectively.

For 2012, the forecast is that domestic production will fall short of demand by 1.07 million tons.

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TAGS: agricultural losses, Agriculture, Asia, Philippines, post-harvest
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