International postharvest technology course to benefit the South Pacific

Some of the latest knowledge and techniques needed toboost South Pacific horticulture have been brought home to the region by University of the South Pacifichorticultural research student, Salesh Kumar, who recently completed a two-week intensive internationally recognised?Postharvest Technology of Horticultural Crops? course at the University of California- Davis.

The Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) sponsored Salesh, the only student representing the South Pacific islands, to help raise his professional standing and to benefit the region?s horticultural industries at large.

The course included five days of classroom and laboratory lectures followed by a week of field visits. Salesh said that he returned to Fiji equipped with fundamental and practical knowledge on postharvest technology which could benefit South Pacific horticulture industries.

?Many communities across the South Pacific have not yet realized the true potential of their horticultural industries and incorporating better postharvest technologies holds a lot of potential,? said Salesh.

?Similarly, intermediaries could reduce postharvest losses by incorporating postharvest technologies in the fresh produce supply chain.

?In developing countries such as South Pacific island countries, major postharvest loses often occur at the beginning of the supply chain. Growers and intermediaries lack basic postharvest technologies to maintain the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables.

?We need to be aware of issues such as the importance of cooling fruit and vegetables after harvest, the right time to harvest and the importance of temperature management along the supply chain.?

According to Salesh, the course was conducted by some of the world?s leading postharvest specialists and covered a broad spectrum of topics.

Day one covered maturation and maturity Indices, postharvest biology, problem diagnosis in produce handling, water loss and postharvest quality, fruit ripening biology and technology, quality factors, ethylene in postharvest, standardization and inspection. Many aspects of postharvest technology were covered throughout the course including food safety and temperature management.

?During the second part of the course, we visitedseveral local conventional and organic fruit and vegetable farms, and grading, packing, cooling, storage, shipping, railways transportation facilities,? said Salesh.

?Almost all the activities at the facilities we visitedare advanced, large-scale and mechanized.? As such there was a lot to learn from this type of study with regards to what works and how successful ideas can be modified to suit current postharvest techniques in the South Pacific.?

Consumer preference and changing trends was another area covered during the course. Horticultural experts noted that apart from adjusting practices to meet sensory preferences, the latest research reflects that consumers prefer to have knowledge on how fruit and vegetables are produced and can favour certain value adding practices.

?For, example some prefer organically grown fruits and vegetables, with no or minimal use of chemicals. The general consensus is that a grower will be more successful and economically viable if he or she sells sought-after produce,? said Salesh.

From a personal level, the coursehas provided Salesh with the opportunity to improve networking with other participants and postharvest specialists.? He also learnt how to use post-harvest equipment and how to identify some common postharvest diseases. Salesh intends to use this knowledge to educate growers, intermediaries and consumers on the importance of postharvest technologies and work towards reducing postharvest losses.

Salesh acknowledges the support of the PARDI participatory guarantee systems (PGS) team .

USP