ACP countries continue to register high postharvest losses (15-85%) in the trade of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, cereals, grains, livestock and fisheries in both domestic and export markets. While new and improved techniques for extending the shelf life of fresh produce exist, reducing postharvest losses remains a challenge. Research and policy issues that require urgent attention include
(i) quantifying and characterizing the extent of postharvest losses across the value chain for the wide range of commodities produced and traded by millions of small-scale producers to determine priority interventions;
(ii) providing the necessary investments for improving research, technology options and infrastructure for extending the shelf life to satisfy quality and food safety standards; and
(iii) building the necessary capacity for improving postharvest handling knowledge across the value chain to respond to changing consumer demands.
Postharvest treatments including the use of chemical and biological compounds (e.g. fungicides, bactericides and insecticides) and the control of temperature, relative humidity and air as well as packaging, storage and transport infrastructure have improved. However quality problems, for example retaining texture and flavour profiles and quantitative postharvest losses remain high as a result of pathological, physiological, mechanical and other damage during harvest, storage, processing, transport, and at the point of sale. Residual traces of chemical residue, micro-organisms and other extraneous material found in treated fresh produce and processed products are problematic and contribute to high levels of rejections.This dossier features two lead articles: the first, by Drs Ducamp and Sagoua, CIRAD, discusses two natural antifungal agents, the lactoperoxidase system based on a natural enzyme and neem oil, as alternative postharvest treatments to respond to changing consumer demands for less/no chemicals in their foods especially fresh fruits and vegetables. The second lead article by Dr Audia Barnett is based on the work by the Scientific Research Council, Jamaica, in adding value to herbs and spices, to enhance the shelf life, preserve the flavours and expand market opportunities for Jamaican herbs and spices. Links to online resources on postharvest research, technologies and policy related issues are also provided in the dossier. Prepared by a CABI/CIRAD team. Edited By Judith Francis, CTA.