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West Bengal tops the list of states incurring post-harvest fruit & veggie losses
A study titled 'Horticulture Sector in India: State Level Experience,' conducted by the industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of says that India incurs post-harvest fruits and vegetable losses worth over Rs two lakh crore each year. This loss is largely due due to the absence of food processing units, modern cold storage facilities and a callous attitude towards tackling the grave issue of post-harvest losses.

The study report says that eastern India's West Bengal faces the highest post-harvest loss at Rs. 13,000 crores followed by Gujarat, Bihar, UP and Maharashtra. West Bengal's share in the total post-harvest loss of fruits and vegatables stands at 6%.

The state is India’s leading horticulture producing state with over 27,000 tonne of fruits and vegetables produced across the state annually thereby accounting for over 10 per cent share across India. States of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are other states that have topped in horticulture production thereby accounting for a share between eight to nine percent. 

“About 30 per cent of total fruits and vegetables produced are rendered unfit for consumption due to spoilage after harvesting as they are highly perishable commodities. Gujarat ranks second with post-harvest fruits and vegetable losses to the tune of worth about Rs 11,400 crore followed by Bihar (over Rs 10,700 crore), Uttar Pradesh (Rs 10,300 crore) and Maharashtra (Rs 10,100 crore)," said D.S. Rawat, national secretary general of Assocham in statement. 

Lack of proper storage facilities is responsible for wastage of substantial quantities of fruits and veggies produced in India and it can be prevented to a great extend by controlling post-harvest environmental conditions.

“The magnitude of post-harvest loss in fruits and vegetables can be minimized by proper cultural operations, harvesting, transportation, storage, pre and post harvest treatments and other such significant measures,” said Mr Rawat. “Considering that storage is most important aspect of post-harvest fruit and vegetable handling as it extends the storage life of the produce thereby enhancing its availability period.” 

Total storage capacity in India is over 300 lakh million tonnes and there is an additional requirement of cold storage of about 370 lakh tonnes for fruits and vegetable storage. 

“The existing cold storage capacity in India is confined only to wholesale markets while majority of fruits and vegetables are sold at local or regional markets which do not have cold storage facility,” said Rawat. “Wholesale market development is also equally important for reducing post-harvest losses as in its absence price transparency gets undermined and transaction costs rise.” 

Wholesale markets play a crucial role in vertical co-ordination of markets, equilibrating supply with demand and facilitate price formation. Besides, their role reduces per unit marketing costs, promote stable markets for local produce and encourage increased output and productivity. 

In its study, Assocham has said that storage and handling conditions need to be enhanced in the fruit and vegetable markets thereby providing infrastructure facilities to bring down post-harvest losses and promote increased productivity.

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