Reducing losses and extending availability of fruits and vegetables


This presentation was delivered by Elizabeth Mitcham, postharvest biologist and extension specialist with the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis, Director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, and Director of the Postharvest Technology Center.

While consumption of fruits and vegetables offers many nutrition benefits, these commodities are much more perishable than legumes and grains, especially when handled fresh. Losses of 30 to 80% are common, and vary depending on the product, environmental conditions and degree of care in handling.

In the developing world, produce losses occur mainly between the farm and the market, while in developed countries losses occur at the retail and consumer level. Particularly in developing countries, poor postharvest handling results from a lack of awareness and training; lack of infrastructure including cold storage, improved roads, and transportation vehicles; and lack of incentives to improve practices.

The most important improvements needed involve harvest timing, protective packaging, introduction of cold-chain practices, and storage facilities or simple processing methods to stabilize the products for off-season availability.

This presentation was part of at an event titled "Aligning the Food System to Meet Dietary Needs: Fruits and Vegetables," which took place on June 2-3, 2017, at the UC Davis Conference Center.

Value Chain

Postharvest practices