Background[edit | edit source]

"Experience has taught the small grower in the developing countries that, if produce is stored, it goes bad. This has two effects: a sufficient quantity is grown to feed the family for about three or four months; immediately after harvest (sometimes before it has been dried thoroughly), when there may he a temporary glut of food and prices are low, produce is sold to traders; moreover, in many areas the farmers are in debt to the traders and any produce surplus beyond their own food requirements is immediately sold to meet accumulated debts. Thus one of the major contributory factors responsible for the economic nonviability of farming areas is the farmer's inability to handle and store food efficiently so that he can sell good quality produce when it is scarce and commands a high price. The standard of living in a rural community depends not only upon the range of foods grown, the capacity to grow in quantity, but also upon the facilities for efficient handling, drying, storage and marketing ....

"In Latin America it has been estimated that there is a loss of 25 to 50 percent of harvested cereals and pulses; in certain African countries about 30 percent of the total subsistence agricultural production is lost annually, and in areas of Southeast Asia some crops suffer losses of up to 50 percent."

Handling and Storage of Food Grains in Tropical and Subtropical Areas, FAO.[edit | edit source]

Many observers view effective farm level grain storage as an opportunity to reduce food losses and increase farm family income and security at the same time. Landless laborers may also benefit from good storage, as grain prices flatten out and in-kind wages can be protected from losses in their homes. Centralized government grain storage facilities frequently have proven to be a disappointment, suffering from poor quality control on incoming grain (with resulting high in-storage loss rates) that leads to low prices paid to the farmers. Even with smoothly functioning large-scale grain storage facilities substantial losses may have already taken place at the farm level before the grain ever reaches the centers.

Several studies of farm level grain storage losses in recent years have concluded that losses in the areas studied were much lower than previously supposed.[verification needed] Studies of this sort have some difficult methodological challenges to overcome, and the complete picture is not yet clear. Certainly there are farmers in some places with particular crops that are experiencing very low storage losses, while some farmers in other places are having high losses with other crops. People interested in this topic should carefully investigate the extent of local losses before launching programs.

This page includes content from David Bartecchi of Village Earth.