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Contributed by Ms. W.A.H. Champa, Research Officer, Institute of Postharvest Technology, Research and Development Center, Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, gains in yields are often offset by postharvest losses from the stage of harvesting until produce reaches the final consumer or processor. Recent loss assessment studies have shown that nearly 35% of produce is lost during handling and marketing operations due to adoption of improper postharvest practices, which could have been used in reducing poverty and hunger, malnutrition, and loss of export earnings. Improving the quality and safety of fresh produce had gained importance in Sri Lanka in the competitive market created under the prevailing free trade policies. Quality and safety improvement will become even more important in the future, when locally produced agricultural commodities must compete with those produced in other countries.
In this context, as a researcher, trainer, and consultant in the field of postharvest technology of horticultural crops, my objective of participating in this training course was to gain knowledge on new and improved technologies pertaining to postharvest management of horticultural crops to assure the quality and safety of produce.
The course was well organized and we gathered knowledge from well-qualified resource persons including FAO Agricultural Industries Officer Dr. Rosa Rolle; Managing Director Chan Seng Kit, K-Farm Sdn. Bhd., Malayisa; Research Associate Professor Dr. Elda B. Esguerra, University of the Philippines of Baños; and Lecturer Dr. Krittika Tanprasert, King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, Thailand. I cannot forget the practical experience given by Mr. Chan and all theoretical components taught by the other three resource persons. Mr. Chan showed us how to materialize the theory and take action. Another highlight of the program was the packaging contest. It was an amazing experience facilitating active interaction among the participants of different countries. The only shortcoming I observed was limited time. We were assigned to prepare an action plan for the horticulture chain in the respective countries by integrating the knowledge gained through this training. Although it was an interesting activity, we did not have enough time to prepare the plans. The teams discussed their plans, but had no time to input them into computers for preparing PowerPoint presentations.
The training course opened avenues to share experience with other countries in the region and this experience help me to strengthen the research, training, extension, and other development activities of my institution as well as in my country. Soon after returning to my institute, I had a chance to perform consultancy for a leading Sri Lankan fruit and vegetable-exporting company, International Foodstuff Company Pvt. Ltd, in Colombo and the knowledge gained through this training course was very helpful for me in that.
In future, I am planning to use my knowledge to enhance the efficiency of the institute’s R&D activities aimed toward improving the prevailing postharvest management systems in my country. Finally I would like to request that the APO hold such training courses in Sri Lanka.