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Asean countries call for better packaging to cut fresh produce waste

With 50 percent of the fresh produce of developing countries in Asia lost to insufficient or inefficient post-harvest facilities, officials are now calling for better packaging to help ensure food security and provide better income for farmers.

During the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Packaging Conference, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña sought the need for the 10-nation bloc to develop and strengthen government-industry partnerships to help minimise food waste.

Based on studies, Dela Peña said that developed countries usually reported a food spoilage and produce damage rate of 5 percent at most.

However, in developing countries like the Philippines, the figure balloons up to 50 percent due to “insufficient packaging, lack of packaging appreciation, and absence of trained and skilled packaging specialists.”

In the Asean region, most farmers use baskets, sacks, plastic bags, cartons, wooden crates or foam plastic boxes to transport fruits and vegetables.

Rosa Rolle from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said that while most of these packages were cheap and accessible, they were of poor quality and did not prevent the produce from being damaged during transport from farm to market.

For example, she said that 29 percent of tomatoes packed using these materials usually ended up in the trash. The figure was higher for mangoes at 38 percent, and cauliflowers at 52 percent.

To prevent further losses, Rolle said that governments should step in and help farmers avail themselves of better packaging options, such as the use of plastic crates.

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