India is the second largest producer of vegetables next only to China with annual production of 90.83 mt from 6.0 mha area. It products 60.9 percent of the horticultural products. The requirement of vegetables in India is estimated at 225 mt by 2021. At present, the wide gap between production and availability of vegetables in India is mainly due to the heavy post harvest losses and fast increase in population. The post-harvest losses in vegetables are as high as 25.30 percent due to inadequate post-harvest handling, transportation, and storage.
Hence, besides increase in productivity, it is also essential to develop suitable post-harvest technology to supply the vegetables as per the recommendation of the nutritional expert to human beings without bringing additional land into vegetable cultivation.
CAUSES OF LOSSES
Several factors influencing the post-harvest losses of vegetables are given as below :
1. Primary causes of losses
• Mechanical losses like bruising, cracking, cuts, etc.
• Microbial spoilage by fungi and bacteria.
• Physiological changes like change in respiration, transpiration, ripening, senescence, sprouting, seed germination in the fruits/pods, etc.
• Physical losses caused by improper cold storage temperature and relative humidity, undesirable gaseous composition of controlled atmospheric storage, insufficient heat during processing, etc. leads to tissue breakdown and storage disorders.
• Biochemical losses includes enzymatic reactions like conversion of carbohydrate, flavour and vitamin content particularly vitamin C and non-enzymatic Changes like softening of tissue toughening and sponginess, synthesis or destruction of pigments, and Millard reaction.
2. Secondary causes of losses
• Inadequate knowledge of maturity standards and harvesting of vegetables.
• Improper handling of the produce.
• Prolonged time taken for harvesting and keeping the produce in the field.
• Harvesting of vegetables during or immediately after rains.
• Harvesting during hotter part of the day. Improper curing e.g. onion and potato.
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• Lack of pre-cooling facilities immediately after harvesting to remove field heat.
• Non-availability of adequate cold storage facilities.
• Lack of post-harvest treatments with fungicides.
• Inadequate use of packaging material cause physical and mechanical injury during transportation and distribution.
• Lack of quick, efficient and cost effective transport facilities.
• Lack of well-set marketing system.
• Non-utilization of packaging materials like SO, releasing pads and ethylene absorbants.
• Seasonal glut of the produce in the market.
• Limited utilization of the produce for processing (less than 1 per cent).
• Absence of legal standards.