Perishable food crops, by definition, refer to agricultural food produce which have short life-span and must be consumed or processed within a short-time after harvest. Examples of perishable crops include tomato (Lycopasicum esculentum), pepper (Capsicum spp), banana (Musa spp), leafy vegetables amongst others. These crops are very sensitive to extreme conditions such as high temperature, pest attack, improper handling, improper storage conditions and so on. Consequently, such crops require proper handling right from the point they are harvested on the farm till they reach consumer’s table or the processing plant.
The most important goals of postharvest handling are to keep the product cool, thereby avoiding moisture loss and slowing down undesirable chemical changes and to avoid physical damage such as bruising in order to delay spoilage. This in turn will help ensure increased food security, as food security goes beyond food production to include distribution and marketing, adequate and stable supply, and accessibility to food. Research has shown that large proportions of perishable farm produce are spoilt after harvest especially during transit to the market or while being stored. This has serious implication on food security as it is bound to affect the affordability and availability of the fresh produce to consumers.
In Nigeria, where most of the fruit vegetables, like tomatoes are grown commercially in the Northern parts, loss during transportation occurs especially en route southern markets. In the face of recent economic recession therefore, where the prices of food crops have skyrocketed, AgroNigeria has therefore taken it upon herself to sensitize the public on some low-cost strategies of reducing post-harvest losses of perishable food crops. In order to take an in-depth analysis of the strategies, the consideration will be done on a crop-specific basis. Therefore, in this week, we will observe the simple strategies that could be employed in curbing post-harvest losses of tomato. The choice of tomato is premised on the fact that Nigeria has just recovered from the outbreak of ‘Tomato ebola’- Tuta absoluta; a disease that ravaged tomato and made it become ‘precious stone’ in Nigerian markets.