Addressing postharvest losses in cassava value chains

Postharvest losses are an important challenge in developing countries, and the RTB Research Program has included the issue in its research agenda for improving food security and income-generating activities. Diego Naziri, a scientist seconded by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) to the International Potato Center (CIP), works on the RTB team dedicated to promoting postharvest technologies, value chains and market opportunities. He is the lead author of a recently published article on “The diversity of postharvest losses in cassava value chains in selected developing countries,” which compares the situations of different cassava–producing countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam.

“This research is the result of the effort of a multi-disciplinary team,” Naziri explained. ““I was very surprised by the findings of this systematic assessment of postharvest losses for such a perishable crop as cassava. The extent of these losses, their type and the stages of the value chain where they occur differ so much from country to country. It is clear that there is no “silver bullet,” so before designing any intervention for postharvest losses reduction, I would recommend similar approaches in other countries and value chains.”

The full PDF text is available from the Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Tropics and Subtropics: http://www.jarts.info/index.php/jarts/article/view/2014121946902/821

Abstract 

The extent of physical and economic postharvest losses at different stages of cassava value chains has been estimated in four countries that differ considerably in the way cassava is cultivated, processed and consumed and in the relationships and linkages among the value chain actors. Ghana incurs by far the highest losses because a high proportion of roots reach the consumers in the fresh form. Most losses occur at the last stage of the value chain. In Nigeria and Vietnam processors incur most of the losses while in Thailand most losses occur during harvesting. Poorer countries incur higher losses despite their capacity to absorb sub-standard products (therefore transforming part of the physical losses into economic losses) and less strict buyer standards. In monetary terms the impact of losses is particularly severe in Ghana and estimated at about half a billion US dollar per annum while in the other countries it is at the most about USD 50 million. This comparison shows that there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions for addressing postharvest losses but rather these must be tailor-made to the specific characteristics of the different value chains.

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Cassava in Vietnam / Credit: Dominique Dufour