Feasibility of a network of excellence postharvest food losses : combining knowledge and competences to reduce food losses in developing and emerging economies

J.B. van Gogh, L.H. Aramyan, A.A. van der Sluis, J.M. Soethoudt, F.P. Scheer

    Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional


    Motivation: food security & postharvest losses Fruits and vegetables supply chains in developing countries are characterised by relatively high losses between harvest and consumption. In general, the postharvest system includes all stages in the chain where the activity/service is intended to add value to the final product. Postharvest loss is often used to describe “losses between harvest and the onward supply of produce to markets and equates broadly with waste in the food supply chain”. In the Food Loss Reduction Strategy, FAO stated that losses for perishable crops, by their nature, are higher than those for cereals, and vary highly by region and commodity type. Losses over 50% are suggested. Intervention: Network of Excellence postharvest losses For a sustainable reduction of postharvest food losses, an intervention has to be planned within the context of the relevant value chains. The idea that a conglomerate of stakeholders, rather than a single party, would engage more effectively with the complexity of causes of postharvest losses is the basis for the establishment of a Network of Excellence (NoE). Such a network will also encourage co-operation between the private and public sector, as well as knowledge institutes. In the Netherlands, network experiences are already gained from the co-operation between government, research institutes and the private sector (the Golden Triangle). This may serve as an example for an international level, in order to disclose unique and viable knowledge which in past en present has been key in securing food and nutrition in the Netherlands. Analysis: causes of postharvest losses in the FSC of fruit and vegetables The research has the objective to gain insight into the causes of postharvest losses in fruit and vegetable supply chains in developing economies, and on which areas of expertise the network should focus. The report contains a qualitative survey of available literature and project documentation, reviewing references from scientific and project databases on the subject of postharvest food losses and their causes in developing countries. In addition, different stakeholders as well as agricultural representations at the Dutch embassies, were invited to express their experiences and insight in postharvest losses in the developing economies where they are active. This combined has resulted in an overview of causes by category, that have been weighted by the number of references in the different sources. The top-3 causes comprises the categories cold chains/refrigerated transport, storage facilities and product handling, and accounts for more than 40 percent of the identified causes of loss in the postharvest chain. Network of Excellence: conditions To assess the feasibility of setting up a NoE, a variety of stakeholders was interviewed with the purpose to retrieve their view and interest. The network will facilitate stakeholders to combine efforts in designing and implementing solutions to reduce postharvest losses. In the process of developing and implementing practical and appropriate solutions, the private sector has a role to play, as well as knowledge institutes, NGOs, intermediary organisations and public agencies, in order to tackle the mentioned complexity of postharvest losses. An overall interest exists in the idea of developing a dedicated NoE. With respect to the success of a NoE, stakeholders referred (amongst others) to the long term perspective for developing - and financing of the network organisation and activities. In the opinion of some of the stakeholders the network’s added value will be the ability to obtain clear defined postharvest questions from the target groups, as well as the ability to generate impact on local chains in terms of reduced losses. Network of Excellence: opportunities Postharvest knowledge and its transfer to the identified target groups is key within the context of the NoE. From the interviews, as well as from the workshop that was summoned on the subject of the feasibility of the NoE, the opinion was retrieved that such a network has the potential to internationally position Dutch expertise and knowhow in this field. The NoE would disclose knowledge on postharvest related issues to the network’s target groups, as well as between network members themselves. Branding of the network by its ‘excellence’ would imply the selection of network members by their excellence in their respective fields of expertise. Whether this would in- or exclude also foreign entities is a matter for debate during the process of formation of the NoE. By performing an intermediary role as matchmaker between network members and network clients, the NoE will disclose this knowledge to chain actors in developing countries. The prominent posting of Dutch knowledge on postharvest issues, can yield benefits for all members that provide their respective expertise and networks in a precompetitive phase in the NoE.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationWageningen UR Food & Biobased Research
    PublisherWageningen UR - Food & Biobased Research
    Number of pages128
    ISBN (Print)9789461736932
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Publication series

    NameRapport / Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research
    PublisherWageningen UR Food & Biobased Research
    No.nr. 1402


    • postharvest losses
    • food production
    • networks
    • netherlands
    • supply chain management


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