- Fruits & Vegetables Transportation
Transportation of fruits and vegetables by crates has been mandated to be effective from Thursday to minimize post harvest losses, an official told this reporter.
Dr. D. B. T. Wijeratne, Agriculture Ministry Enterprise Development Director said that the necessary regulations in this regard have had already been passed. It will be an offence to transport fruits and vegetables other than in rigid containers thereafter, he said. Transportation of fruits and vegetables in gunny bags will be taboo from Thursday, Wijeratne added. Sri Lanka’s high post harvest losses of fruits and vegetables, estimated at some 30-40%, is largely attributed to poor storage and transportation, especially in the storage and transportation of fruits and vegetables in gunny bags.
Wijeratne said that the transportation of such in rigid crates right down the supply chain will help reduce post harvest losses to 10-15%. He was however not in a position to say when this target will be achieved.
Wijeratne said that there is no shortage in the supply of such crates. And the cost? He said that it’s economics, where such costs may have to be passed on to the consumer. But in the long run everyone will gain when transportation of fruits and vegetables are done in rigid crates, he said.
The problem faced in transporting tomatoes and pineapples this way? He said that there are special crates made out of plastic that may be used in the transportation of such fruits.
The only exception is in the transportation of bananas, he said.
Bananas in Sri Lanka are generally transported in bunches, so this regulation will not be applicable in the transportation of bananas, Wijeratne said. They are transported after being covered with banana leaves.
But in other countries bananas are transported in combs, he said. In Sri Lanka they are not, because banana combs ripen faster than bananas in bunch form, he said. Bananas move relatively slower in Sri Lanka than in other countries because of economics, said Wijeratne. They are however not transported in gunny bags.
He further said that even in India post harvest losses were as high as that found in Sri Lanka. The only exception is Thailand where they have been able to reduce post harvest losses to 20% due to the use of rigid crates, said Wijeratne. Those rigid crates may be made out of any substance, such as rigifoam, cardboard or plastic, he said. However those containers have to be airy, fruits and vegetables sweat, so if there is no airiness, spoilage is faster, he said.
An industrial engineer speaking on post harvest losses at a recent seminar gave it a more conservative estimate of between 20-25% or Rs. 20 billion in value (see also the business pages in The Sunday Leader issue of August 14).
One of the reasons why transporters/ middle men are reluctant to replace gunny bags with plastic crates is because they have had already factored in post harvest losses in their dealings with farmers, thereby buying their produce at a discount.
Gunny bags being replaced with plastic crates would therefore deprive the middleman from reaping the dividends of such a lucrative arrangement made with the farmer.