Can you help me with an estimate of annual postharvest losses, and an estimate of reduction in this loss, if the shelf life of produce could be extended?


I am an agricultural economist with an interest in the fruit & vegetables sector. I have been asked to lead a team to commercialize a piece of software which will be of great assistance to the food packaging industry. Use of this software will extend the shelf life of fruit and vegetables by 2 or 3 days and this should greatly reduce the problem of waste, which I understand to be a major problem in this sector.  There are 2 issues which I would appreciate your assistance on:

1)      An estimate in US$ of the amount of waste in the fruit and vegetables sector on an annual basis and an indication as to whether the scale of the problem is growing or in decline.

2)      Your estimate as to the reduction in the above figure that would be achieved if the shelf life of fruit and vegetables could be extended by 2 days. (J.S.)


Current research has largely neglected system-wide produce losses but the estimates developed by the landmark study by NSF-RANN 35 years ago are believed by most industry experts to remain valid.  That research developed broad ranges of losses at each stage of the distribution system but taken together reached as high as 16% of all fresh produce, which converts to more than $ 17 billion in 2009. –Roberta Cook

Estimated ranges of Losses in the
Fresh Produce Distribution System




Percent 1


2.80 – 5.00


2.50 – 5.03


2.74 – 6.58

System Losses

9.04 – 16.61

1Percentage losses are based upon dollar values of losses in each phase of distribution as a percentage of the wholesale value of products entering the distribution system.