Postharvest losses in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa that reach up to 30%, are caused by spillage and grain loss in all postharvest processes, losses to animals and pests, and inefficient rice mills. In addition to physical loss, inappropriate postharvest management practices, delays caused by labor shortage, outdated postharvest equipment, and low operator skills lead to losses in quality and to contamination (for example, by mycotoxins), thus reducing the market price of milled rice by 10–30%.
Current trends make the situation worse. In the past, farmers and most of the industry have relied on the sun for drying their paddy to safe moisture content. However, with climate change and double cropping systems there is now more rain during harvesting time than before. In addition with each increase in production from rice intensification there is more crop to handle in postharvest, which the traditional systems can’t cope with.
Urbanization leads to labor shortage which again leads to steep cost increase for manual operations such as harvesting. Moreover, limited market information prevents market-oriented production.
Farmers lack the necessary knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, and resources to source and apply technologies to improve income by reducing losses and increase income by adding value. Business models for farmers can enable farmers and processors to link to these resources and apply postharvest technologies as small entrepreneurs.
IRRI and its partners are:
- initiating sustainable postharvest networks (Postharvest Learning Alliances) that embraces key postharvest stakeholders from public and privates sectors for identifying national impact pathways, establishing baselines, planning and implementing interventions, studying adoption and impact, and engaging policy;
- developing, adapting, optimizing and participating in verification of harvesters, dryers, threshers, mills, storage systems, village-level quality assessment tools, and postharvest management options;
- developing business models, and networks for exchanging and disseminating postharvest technologies and management options more efficiently;
- developing and verifying low-cost mycotoxin detection technology; and
- developing and delivering training packages for postharvest technologies and business models.
- researching alternative ways of using the rice straw e.g. for generating energy
These works will improve technologies and management options to increase postharvest yield help with out-scaling of new technologies by creating business models. Also, our work will help reduce mycotoxin contamination of milled rice, an enable institutional and organizational innovations that create greater access to markets for smallholder farmers.
Martin Gummert, posthavest specialist at IRRI, discusses the importance of reducing postharvest losses and adding value to rice.