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How technology can prevent food waste in developing countries

December 18, 2014

How technology can prevent food waste in developing countries

Katherine Earley
Thursday 18 December 2014 12.30 GMT

Up to 40% of food produced in the developing world is wasted before it reaches the market, according to figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). With the number of middle-class consumers predicted to rise to three billion by 2030, and the majority of that growth in developing countries, tackling this problem is no small feat ? particularly as rising affluence in urban areas is likely to trigger a higher demand for richer diets and more complex food supply chains.

Lack of access to cold chain technology and reliable energy sources are the major reasons for crops perishing after harvest, research by Nottingham University shows (pdf). The cost of delivering energy to remote, rural regions means that, even when storage facilities are built, they may nevertheless stand empty. Poor transport infrastructure causes further losses, and a lack of education on post-harvest practices often results in poor quality control and food being damaged during handling.

“Without the technology, expertise and understanding necessary to keep their harvest fresh, smallholder farmers are often locked into a cycle of poverty, unable to access global markets,” says Dr Lisa Kitinoja, founder of the Postharvest Education Foundation.

India suffers losses of up to £4.4bn in fruit and vegetables each year due to the absence of effective technologies to keep produce cool. Despite being the world’s largest banana producer, it holds just 0.3% of the global banana market. Production is fragmented compared to the large-scale commercial farms of its competitors, with smallholder farmers typically cultivating small plots with little business or technical support. Less than 4% of India’s fresh produce is transported by cold chain, compared to more than 90% in the UK.

Better cold storage, education about food handling and improved infrastructure could help to transform this situation, according a study by Maersk (pdf) ? potentially growing the trade of banana containers from 3,000 to 190,000 annually, and benefitting more than 34,000 smallholder farmers across India.

Read more at The Guardian.

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