Postharvest Loss Reduction of “Pomme d’amour” Cooking Tomatoes produced by Small Farmers in Mauritius
Submitting InstitutionWrittle College
Unit of AssessmentAgriculture, Veterinary and Food Science
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences: Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
Summary of the impact
Writtle College's Postharvest Technology Unit and the Mauritian
Agriculture Research and Extension Unit (AREU) studied the use of
returnable plastic crates (RPC's) to reduce food losses for subsistence
farmers in Mauritius. This study demonstrated that the RPC's reduced
damage caused by pressure, abrasion and lower temperatures. This study had
a positive impact, mainly economic, on the postharvest losses of the "pomme
d'amour" cooking tomatoes in Mauritius due to rot, damage and
dehydration. As a result these stakeholders have increased their income
through having a more marketable-quality crop to sell.
The introduction of RPC's within the EU into the supply chain was driven
by the need to reduce packaging waste as opposed to reduction in food
waste. However, the introduction of multi-vented plastic crates had the
effect of changing the product temperature by greater airflow. Work on
measuring the temperature changes due to the change of packing from
cardboard cartons to RPC's started in 2000 and was reported in book
chapters and conference papers (e.g. Bishop et al. 2002, Bishop et al
2007, Bishop & Hanney 2008).
Preliminary work with farmers in northern Mauritius occurred in 2003 and
2004. The first six months were spent visiting and talking to a farming
community (around 35 farming families) by personal visits and AREU
extension open days, where — traditionally — men undertake the tasks based
in the fields, and women work inside sorting tomatoes 2-3 times weekly.
The main issues encountered by the farmers in Mauritius were the loss of
the produce because of poor handling due to the nature of the packaging
used, poor temperature management and little air movement around the fruit
during the ripening process. This was combined with the fact that any
improvement that could be made to the post-harvest of the crop should pay
for itself over a short period as the farmers had no financial liquidity.
The research consisted of temperature monitoring of the product itself
with fly-lead single channel temperature loggers rather than simply
measuring the adjacent air temperature. This generated a much more
accurate picture of the potential for disease and moisture loss. The
research also involved close analysis under the microscope of the tomato
surface so as to ascertain skin abrasion that would accelerate moisture
loss. The combination of these standard postharvest technology techniques
highlighted the problem areas and so meant that the trials could go
forward with confidence. The results of the experimental research
mentioned above were reported in Bishop et al. 2007; and in Bishop
and Hanney, 2008.
Later, three experimental trials were undertaken in Mauritius during the
harvest season by comparing existing methods with an improved system.
These trials occurred in November 2003, March 2004 and September 2004.
Research staff involved on the ground in Mauritius was Dr Chris Bishop,
Reader in Postharvest Technology Writtle College and Mrs Indoomatee Ramma
of AREU and extension colleagues, with support at Writtle College of Dr
Alan Gash, Senior Lecturer in Agriculture (Dr Gash left the College in
2010) and the results were reported on Bishop and Ramma, 2012.
The work was carried out as part of the EU programme (Contract AREU/
EDF/01) Northern Plains Irrigation Project (NPIP) — Phase 2 Technical
Assistance to Support Diversification 2003-2004 (Contract AREU/EDF/01).
References to the research
1. Bishop, C.F.H., Wainwright, H. and Pailes, P. (2002) Cool-chain-an
integrated temperature management system for Fresh produce. Chapter for
book Crop Management and Postharvest Handling of Horticultural
Products vol II ed Ramdane, Dris, pub Science Publishers, Enfield,
3. Bishop C F H and Hanney S J (2008) Environmentally-compatible
packaging of fresh agricultural and horticultural produce for book
Environmentally-compatible food packaging Edited by E Chiellini, Woodhead
Details of the impact
Following the results of the trials done in 2003-2004, several
recommendations on postharvest practices were suggested. It was
established that the use of RPCs to attain better temperature control,
reduce damage and abrasion to the crop, thus reducing its susceptibility
to contract diseases; will result in a reduction on losses on the
postharvest of the tomato crop and an increase of the percentage on the
top price of the crop. The results also showed a clear benefit on the
investment of shallow, smooth sided, vented trays, compared with the
traditional use of wooden boxes to store the fruit postharves. The cost of
these trays will pay for itself in between one and two harvests.
These recommendations have resulted in the reduction of losses of the
tomato "Pomme d'amour". As a consequence this has had an in
important economic benefit to the community of subsistence- farmers of
Mauritius. The cooking tomato "Pomme d'Amour" is considered the
most important crop in the northern part of Mauritius and is an important
part of the traditional diet. Almost all the crop is grown by small
farmers as a substance for their family, but also an important proportion
is sold to local markets. Therefore, the direct beneficiaries or
stakeholders are the small subsistence farmers and their families of
northern Mauritius who mainly grow the "Pomme d'amour" tomatoes on
half a hectare or less.
After the implementation of the changes to the postharvest management of
the tomato in 2005-2006, these stakeholders have greatly reduced their
losses and have had a direct relationship on the increase of economic
gain. This has become very apparent in the last few years; and by 2010,
this reduction of loss has been very similar to what was originally
trialled in 2003-2004. Around 20% of reduction in losses has been achieved
and there has also been an increase to 60% from 25% on the eventual
percentage of top price.
Nowadays subsistence farmers in Mauritius are experiencing the benefits
in reduction of food loss which in turn has paid for the investment in
RPC's in only one to two harvests. The increase of marketable tomatoes of
around 2 kg per crate at a mean market price of £1.5-2.0/kg (in 2013 the
mean weekly price varied from £0.7 to 2.7 /kg http://www.areu.mu/apmis/)
compared with the price of the crates of £5.
The impact that this research has had to the postharvest of the crop have
resulted in lower losses and so it has increased the value chain for the
subsistence farmers. For example in a typical year, where two or three
harvests can be achieved, if a farmer maintains the same area of tomato
production of approximately 0.125 hectares, by using the RPCs there will
be an increase in saleable fruit of around 800kg and an increase in income
of around £1000.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Assistant Director, Agricultural Research and Extension Unit, Food and
Agricultural Research Council, Mauritius.
- Principal Research Scientist, Agricultural Research and Extension
Unit, Food and Agricultural Research Council, Mauritius.
- Senior Lecturer in Food and Technology, Faculty of Agriculture,
University of Mauritius, Mauritus.
- Response to the Foresight report presented to the House of Commons by
the Institution of Agricultural Engineers used the above case study as
an example of appropriate technology to reduce post-harvest losses (p.