While much has been written about the need for better postharvest handling to improve overall farm to fork productivity, the data are all over the place. The rates of losses in both the developed world and emerging markets is similar, it just happens at different points of the value chain. In emerging markets the highest losses occur at the pre-consumer stage, with a rule-of-thumb figure of 30%. In the developed world, most losses occur post-consumer, our aging leftovers molding in the back of the refrigerator or those supersized plates of restaurant food that are never eaten. Bottom line, a lot of food is wasted and much can be done to mitigate this leading to more efficient agriculture including less stress on our land and water resources, and lower food prices.
Data are better on postharvest-preconsumer losses for the main grain crops (maize, wheat, rice, soya, sorghum, millet), but still range from 8% (FAO) to 15% (APHLIS) for Sub-Saharan Africa. Still a lot of food that is wasted. For instance, that 15% figure that APHLIS uses totals 7.6 million metric tons, with over half of that maize! That's a lot of food.
I believe that improved, lower-cost storage technologies that can be used on the farm and by intermediaries. This will include hermetically-sealed bags that have been promoted by Grain Pro and Purdue (PICs), and more permanent structures like grain containers and silos that are designed more for the larger farmer, farm association, and market-town traders. The technologies help not only to reduce losses from rotting, rodents and insects, but also provide more opportunity to hold onto stock and sell when market conditions are more favorable.
I am very interested in hearing from you about what appropriate storage technologies you have seen and/or used, including the effectiveness, challenges and costs. References to studies and papers are most welcome!