PhilMech to address post-harvest losses for sweet potato

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) is studying interventions to enable cultivators of sweet potato to have higher productivity and better earnings.

A recent PhilMech study showed, post-harvest losses of sweet potato or kamote ranged from 31.21 percent to almost 33 percent, caused largely by the inefficiency of existing manual and labor-intensive harvesting methods.

“With this concern, the harvesting operation of sweet potato can be mechanized using an efficient mechanical root crop harvester that can eventually reduce labor requirement and losses on uncollected roots,” it said.

Sweet potato is the seventh most important food crop in the world, and is usually planted in tropical and sub-tropical countries in areas with less productive soil.

In many areas in the Philippines, sweet potato is the third most important food crop after rice and corn.

“I would consider this study on the possible post-harvest interventions needed for sweet potato as pivotal, as lessened post-harvest losses for the crop will help improve the quality and quantity of kamote available for the market,” PhilMech executive director Baldwin Jallorina said.

Sweet potato is mostly harvested manually, requiring 30 to 50 laborers per hectare per day. Harvesting usually requires two days.

However, the manual harvesting system currently practiced in most farms results in a significant amount of the harvests getting damaged resulting in lower prices in the market.

The rest of the post-harvest losses were from the shipping and transport of sweet potato from the farm to the market.

To reduce post-harvest losses, PhilMech recommended the development of farm equipment for harvesting the crop. A tractor-drawn was initially developed in Leyte, which PhilMech has proposed to evaluate as to its status of commercialization.

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