Milling on a mobile tractor.
Photo: S. Chatterjee/Welthungerhilfe


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In terms of figures, avoiding post-harvest losses could feed a third of India’s poor. However, structural problems and shortcomings make this a difficult proposition. Welthungerhilfe is seeking comprehensive solutions.

Agricultural produce undergoes a series of operations such as harvesting, threshing, winnowing, bagging, transportation, storage, processing and exchange before it reaches the consumer, and there are appreciable losses in crop output in all these stages. In the tribal, backward areas of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, where Welthungerhilfe is focusing its activities, losses are particularly high because the producers here are often unaware of the available best practices and mostly follow age-old traditional techniques learned from their forefathers that are frequently not the most efficient methods.

According to a World Bank study (1999), post-harvest losses of food grains in India account for 7–10 per cent of the total production from farm to market level and 4–5 per cent at market and distribution levels. For the system as a whole, such losses have been worked out to be 11–15 million tons of food grains annually, including 3–4 million tons of wheat and 5–7 million tons of rice.

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