Measuring postharvest losses at the farm level in Malawi
This article (PDF) by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) measures farmlevel postharvest losses for three main crops—maize, soy, and groundnuts—among 1,200 households in Malawi. To optimally design interventions targeted at reducing losses, it is important to know where losses are concentrated between the farm and fork. Farmers answered a detailed questionnaire about losses during harvest and transport, processing, and storage. The findings indicate that fewer than half of households report suffering losses conditional on growing each crop. In addition, conditional on losses occurring, the loss averages between 5 and 12 percent of the farmer’s total harvest. Compared to nationally representative data, this study documents a far greater percentage of farmers experiencing losses, though the unconditional proportion lost is similar. It is found that losses are concentrated in harvest and processing activities for groundnuts and maize; for soy, they are highest during processing. Slightly higher losses are reported for groundnuts and soy, as compared with maize. Existing interventions have primarily targeted storage activities; however, these results suggest that targeting other activities may be worthwhile. The estimates in this paper and others, showing that postharvest losses are low at the farmer level, suggest that any large investments in the reduction of food loss may be best targeted at other points in the value chain. However, given that more than half of farmers report experiencing some kind of postharvest loss and that losses of even 5 percent of harvest can be individually significant for poor farmers, innovative policy solutions for smallholders could still have an important impact. Such solutions must be costeffective and easy to implement.