Evaluation of different types of packages for handling and transportation of vegetables.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are termed perishable commodities because they have an inherent tendency for spoilage due to physiological reasons. Postharvest losses of these crops may occur at any point between harvest and consumption in the marketing process. In developing counties, where there is a profound lack of infrastructural and marketing facilities, postharvest losses of fresh produce vary between 25-50% of the total production, depending on the commodity. In Sri Lanka, it has been estimated that the Colombo Municipal Council discards 11 MT of fruits and vegetables as garbage from the Manning market (major wholesale market in Colombo) per day. Moreover, approximately 270000 MT of fruits and vegetables are lost during the postharvest operations and the value of this is approximately Rs. 9000 million. Improper post harvest handling, improper packaging and transportation, diseases and inadequate storage facilities are some of the major reasons for such high postharvesy losses. Losses of this magnitude represent a significant food loss and a considerable economic loss to the country. Furthermore, farmer gets low price for his commodities and consumer gets low quality products.
In Sri Lanka fresh fruits and vegetables are packed mainly in Poly-sacks for transportation and this practice leads to serious losses. Of the total postharvest loss occurring in fresh produce, the loss during handling and transportation alone amounts to approximately 20%. The use of rigid containers such as plastic crates, wooden boxes and fiber board boxes will minimize the serious damage occurring in fresh fruits and vegetables during handling and transportation.
Hence, a study was undertaken to identify suitable packages, both from an economical and technical point of view, for handling and transportation of fresh commodities in Sri Lanka.
Ten types of packages, selected from those available in the market and also those developed by various institutions were used for evaluation. The types of packages selected were: nestable plastic crate (large and small size), collapsible plastic crate (large and small), steel collapsible crate, wooden box designed by ITI, wooden boxes designed by IPHT, fiber board box and wax coated fiberboard box. The evaluation study was conducted by transporting the fresh produce from farmer’s field to Keppetipola Economic Center and then to Manning market, Colonbo. The nestable plastic crate of dimensions 52.5x35.0x30.0 cm was identified as the most suitable package for handling and transportation of tomatoes and the nestable plastic crate of dimensions 60.0x42.5x30.0 cm was identified as the most suitable package for other vegetables such as beans, cabbage, brinjals and curry chilies.