Reaping benefits from post-harvest science in the South Pacific
Professor Steven Underhill of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) describes how research in the South Pacific is being tailored to boost Fiji fruit and vegetable exports. His impression of postharvest handling systems in the South Pacific was that of a sub-optimal system which lacks reliable infrastructure and technology. For example, packaging is inappropriate for transporting produce any distance (i.e. old boxes and sacks are used), packing facilities are limited, trucks overloaded with produce travel along rough roads, and refrigeration is non-existent. Given these apparent postharvest limitations, Underhill believes improvements to postharvest practices present big opportunities to benefit local farmers. Historically, postharvest efforts have centred on introducing a concept of 'post-harvest best practice' from outside the region. Over the past decade, this approach has led to the construction of packing sheds and improved packaging with cool storage, and general post-harvest training for farmer groups. However, Underhill feels much more could still be done to tailor solutions to the local context and maximise benefits for smallholder farmers. Understanding local needs and analysing the post-harvest supply chains should be top priorities for post-harvest science.
(Photo source: sxcreenshot grab from ACIAR's PARDI work in Fiji)
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