New APHLIS tool estimates the financial cost of postharvest losses

09 April 2020

Postharvest losses are widely understood to have serious financial consequences for farmers. Such losses waste not only food, but also the land, water, labour and other inputs used in agricultural production.

The African Postharvest Losses Information System (APHLIS) has developed a new tool that enables users to uncover the financial value of crop postharvest losses in sub-Saharan African countries.

Estimated financial value of postharvest losses in 2018

What is APHLIS?

APHLIS was created in 2009 to contribute a more accurate understanding of postharvest losses of cereals across sub-Saharan Africa. The aims of APHLIS were to gather, analyse and publicise data on the quantity of each cereal crop lost during harvest, drying, threshing, storage and transport in the different regions of each country every year. 

Marketplace, Kibale, Uganda. ©Neils Photography. Attribution 4.0 International.  

In 2018, postharvest losses of maize are estimated to be worth 500 million USD in Ethiopia alone

APHLIS uses loss measurements recorded in scientific literature, which are then put into context with country-specific data collated by a network of local experts. These data include:

  • production figures
  • storage duration
  • percentage of the crop marketed
  • rain at harvest
  • pest incidence. 

A second phase of APHLIS (2015-2020), supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is expanding the range of crops to include the most important legume, root and tuber crops in African food systems. An additional objective of Phase 2 includes the development of tools to estimate how human nutrition and economic  systems are affected by postharvest losses.

How we calculate the financial value of postharvest losses

The tool for estimating the financial value of postharvest losses – released in November 2019 – works by multiplying the number of tonnes of a commodity lost each year during postharvest processes in a particular country (using APHLIS loss estimates) by the price of that commodity. 

The APHLIS team screened a number of information systems featuring market price information for food crops, eventually selecting the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) Food Price Monitoring Analysis (FPMA) tool. This had the greatest overlap with APHLIS in terms of crop, country and years covered. The financial data has been fully integrated into the APHLIS losses tables, enabling users to select various key loss metrics, including percentage loss (%), dry weight loss (t), and the newly developed financial value of loss (USD)

Estimated financial value of postharvest losses of cereal crops in Ethiopia

APHLIS postharvest loss figures are combined with market price data from the FAO-GIEWS FPMA to calculate the USD value of postharvest losses by crop, country, province and year

Work is ongoing to investigate whether the price discounting effects of postharvest losses on quality, such as those caused by insect damage, can also be integrated into the financial loss calculation tool. 

“Adding a financial lens to postharvest loss assessments helps decision-makers decide where to focus their investments around loss reduction.”

“Adding a financial lens to postharvest loss assessments helps decision-makers, donors, and researchers decide where to focus their investments around loss reduction, food security and agricultural production,” said Dr. Tanya Stathers, who led the development of the tool. “It also assists Ministry of Agriculture staff and other stakeholders to leverage national or programme-level resources to invest in training, infrastructure, policy and technology interventions for reducing postharvest losses.”

Users are encouraged to contact APHLIS with information on additional national crop price data sets they would like to see included in the system.

Impact of postharvest losses on GDP

APHLIS has also added datasets that show the financial value of postharvest losses in each sub-Saharan African country in terms of their national agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and other metrics. Such data can help in developing a deeper understanding of the cost of postharvest losses and the value and importance of reducing postharvest losses by 50% by 2025 in line with the African Union Member States’ Malabo Declaration.

Other recent features added to APHLIS

APHLIS added a tool for calculating the nutritional impacts of postharvest losses in September. Both the nutritional and financial postharvest loss calculation tools can be found on the APHLIS website.

User comments

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