Role of marketing to diminish post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables
Author: Mohan Paramkusam
RSM & State head at RML, Hyderabad, India

The term "post-harvest loss" refers to measurable quantitative and qualitative food loss in the post-harvest system. This system comprises interconnected activities from the time of harvest through crop processing, marketing and food preparation, to the final decision by the consumer to eat or discard the food. Globally, food losses and post-harvest waste are estimated at 30 to 40% of production. Losses of perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables can be even higher during the post-harvest period, depending upon the weather, mode of harvest, access to storage or distance from markets. Utilizing improved post-harvest practices often results in reduced food losses, improved overall quality and food safety, and higher profits for growers and marketers.

Factors responsible for post-harvest losses

1. Crop production Temperature and nutritional status Light Day length Water relations Chemical treatment Infection or infestation
2. Harvesting Maturity Method
3. Treatments Pesticides Heat Sprout suppressants Curing
4. Storage and transport conditions Packaging Type of transport Type of store Temperature Humidity Atmospheric gases
5. Market gluts- supply greatly exceeds the demand
6. Improper market infrastructure
7. Meager quantities diverted for processing

Losses may occur anywhere from the point where the food has been harvested or gathered up to the point of consumption. Different stages like harvest, preservation, processing, storage and transportation.

Post harvest losses in fruits and vegetables

Commodity Estimated Loss (%)
Carrots 44
Potatoes 5-40
Sweet Potatoes 35-95
Tams 10-60
Cassava 10-25
Onions 16-35
Tomatoes 50%
Plantain 35-100
Cabbage 37
Cauliflower 49
Lettuce 62
Banana 20-80
Papaya 40-100
Avocado 43
Peaches, apricots & nectarines 28
Citrus 20-95
Grapes 27
Raisins 20-95
Apples 14

Market chain system

Losses in perishable produce occur everywhere from the field to the ultimate consumer and depend on the degree of perishability of the produce; they are inherent in the very nature of the product. Since the market chain or system refers to specific operations, handling, transportation and trade practices, there is a close correlation between the type and magnitude of loss incurred by a specific product and the chain or system wherein it moves. This implies that for a given commodity moving in a particular chain, there is something like a standard loyal of loss inherent in the chain, the reduction of which could not be obtained by improving isolated operations taking place within the chain. It would require a change in the total market system itself. To avoid losses or even significantly reduce them to isolated stations in the chain may not be a realistic proposition. However, any obvious isolated practice that leads to heavy losses, such as faulty packaging, must be corrected.

Marketing methods and conditions vary widely from country to country and any attempt to attribute losses to a particular point in marketing chains or to any specific system or marketing runs into difficulty because it is not possible to generalize on a wide basis. For this reason, a systems approach should be adopted for dealing with food losses whereby all the factors applicable to a given situation and in an individual country have to be considered before any meaningful diagnoses can be made.

Marketing and distribution

Growers can produce large quantities of quality fruits, vegetables and ornamentals but, if they do not have a reliable, fast, and equitable means of getting such commodities to the consumer. This problem exists in many locations within developing countries. The approach of the market specialist to the problem of food losses in perishables is to identify the place in the market chain where losses of unusual magnitude occur. The physical place where such losses are registered is less important than the position in the chain whole losses occur and the relation of the specific loss situation to the total market chain. Alternative distribution systems, such as direct selling to the consumer (roadside stands, produce markets in cities, local farmers' market in the countryside, etc.) should be encouraged. Production should be maintained as close to the major population centers as possible to minimize transportation costs. Market driven solutions for eliminating post-harvest losses were explored as the most effective way (Daniel et al., 2015).

Limited Marketing Systems

Marketing cooperatives should be encouraged among producers of major commodities in important production areas. Such organizations are especially needed in developing countries because of the relatively small farm size. Advantages of marketing cooperatives include: providing central accumulation points for the harvested commodity, purchasing harvesting and packing supplies and materials in quantity, providing for proper preparation for market and storage when needed, facilitating transportation to the markets, and acting as a common selling unit for the members, coordinating the marketing program, and distributing profits equitable. Marketing cooperatives provide central accumulation points for the harvested commodity, purchasing harvesting and packing supplies and materials in quantity, providing for proper preparation for market and storage when needed, facilitating transportation to the markets, and acting as a common selling unit for the members, coordinating the marketing program, and distributing profits equitable.

Market sanitation improvement

Wholesale markets in most of the developing countries are in desperate need of improvement in terms of facilities and sanitation. These are overcrowded, unsanitary, and lack adequate facilities for loading, unloading, ripening, consumer packaging, and temporary storage. In several countries, there are plans to build better wholesale marketing facilities, but their implementation has been delayed more because of social and political than financial considerations.

Market losses management

Management of losses is essentially action oriented, it is effected within a given market system. Each marketing system has its own rationale and is affected by policy decisions with regard to production, marketing and consumption. The latter will have a direct incidence on the effect of any measures that might be implemented for the reduction of losses. The introduction and application of fatality measures aimed at bringing losses down to a desirable level.

Traditional subsistence systems are widespread throughout the developing world sad are characterized by local exchange or barter trade, sharply limited geographical movements of produce and typical small units of sale or barter. Losses do occur but they tend to be overestimated and may be difficult to reduce. The subsistence economy sets its own limits: the chain from field to consumer is usually short, both in time and distance. Practically everything is consumed because every quality finds a ready consumer. Improvement of the system in terms of reduction of losses may be limited to the provision of shade. Recommendations might not go beyond encouraging the producer to collect his fruits and vegetables under a tree or build a make-shift shed or tent.

Losses of unusual magnitude do regularly occur in the system and here there is good scope for the introduction and application of specific measures to reduce losses depending on the readiness of the systems to transfer the improvement down or up the chain. Most measures that focus on gentler handling, better conditioning, faster transportation and proper storage would seem to be effectively applicable only within an improved market infrastructure including suitable roads. Quality consciousness and the introduction and acceptance of some forms of quality separation by the trade and the consumer must precede the demand by the farmer for bottle, and therefore higher cost, boxes or containers. This again can hardly be expected if the higher prices paid for better quality cannot be transferred down the chain to the producer. Much closer communication relating producer capacity to retailer/consumer demand is a prerequisite to such developments, sad the more efficient management of marketing enterprises (aphilis, 2013).

Strategies to minimize loss

• Reduce the cost of production to be in the reach of a common man

• Ramification of net work of local markets

• Staggering of harvest by staggering the pruning in fruit through bahar treatment

• Educating and training the persons involved in harvesting and handling the produce

• Fabrication and usage of harvesting devices which prevent the mechanical damage and bruises to the harvested fruits

• Development of roads to prevent shock

• Provision of mobile precooling vans in the production sites

• Creation of precooling and cold storage units in the vicinity of cluster of orchards

• Cost effective waxing and shrink wrapping

• Use of ethylene absorbents and silica gel packets

• Establish e-marketing network with production groups

• Establish a net work of local markets

Terminal Markets

• Under the present marketing system, producers and consumers suffer the most. The quantum of middlemen is also too high. Terminal Market is being built to reduce post harvest losses, it link farmers to markets by shortening supply chain of perishables and enhance their efficiency and increase in farmers income.

• Terminal market system provides alternative marketing structures with state of art technology that provide multiple choices to farmers for sale of their agricultural produce.

• Terminal markets force reforms in agricultural marketing sector resulting in accelerated development of marketing and post harvest infrastructure including cool chain infrastructure in the country, through private sector investment. It also brings transparency in market transactions and price fixation for agricultural produce and through provision of backward linkages to enable farmers to realise higher price and higher income.


Introduce and motivate smallholder farmers and other local entrepreneurs to reduce costs, increase sales, and maximize profits in long term (e.g., demand/product buying, introduction of new technologies, access to affordable financing). But it is essential to recognize that market-driven solutions will require the involvement of not only global players and smallholder farmers, but also the timely, targeted support of governments and the NGO communities.


1. Post-Harvest Losses Information Systems. 2013. Available at: Accessed October 03, 2015

2. Daniel Runde, Michael Levett, and Caitlin Allmaier (2015).Exploring Market-driven Solutions to Post-harvest Loss. Prosper February 13, 2015 / Prosper

About Author / Additional Info:
RSM & State head at RML, Hyderabad, India