Dr. Susan Lurie
Emeritus Scientist, the Department of Postharvest Science, ARO, Ministry of Agricultureand Rural Development, Israel
Despite the remarkable progress made in increasing food production world wide, approximately half of the population in the developing countries does not have access to adequate food supplies; thus the food security problem is worsening. There are many reasons for this, one of which is food losses occurring throughout the supply chain from production, post-harvest, processing and marketing. In the report “Global Food Losses and Food Waste” (FAO, Rome, 2011) statistics show that roughly one-third of food production for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts of about 1.3 billion tons per year. “Loss” means any change in the quality of the food that prevents it from being consumed by people. Causes of this loss are varied with microbiological, mechanical and physiological factors being the main cause in perishable crops. Other causes are poor harvesting procedures and packaging, incorrect handling and temperature control, as well as inadequate transportation. These are areas where the major losses occur in developing countries. In developed countries losses occur at the point of marketing, with supermarkets being responsible for much of the losses.
The role of a Postharvest Scientist is to determine the points during the marketing chain where losses occur, and determine solutions to potential problems. There is a wide range of postharvest technologies used in Israel that can be adopted to reduce losses throughout the process from field to fork. The Postharvest expert can develop and adapt the tools required for successful application of selected technologies in accordance with local systems and needs. The postharvest technology transfer includes explanation of the physiological, pathological and environmental factors involved in the deterioration of fresh agricultural produce. The objectives is to delay senescence, to reduce loss and to maintain the best possible quality of the produce. The final aim is to initiate, teach and transfer knowledge to extension workers and farmers. Special emphasis is given to important local commodities and their problems.