Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

infested maize grains

The Larger Grain Borer (Prostephanus truncatus) is one of the main factors in maize Post Harvest Losses in Sub Saharian Africa

Food Security: improving post harvest loss estimates


Scientists at the JRC's Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen (IPSC) have released an innovative Post Harvest Losses Information System, generating figures for the Post Harvest Losses (PHLs) of cereal crops in Eastern and Southern Africa and documenting in a transparent manner the sources and factors in play such as climatic conditions, types of farm and pests. The system is fully accessible online at

Cereal production in developing countries is affected by climate and drought but Post Harvest Losses (PHL) often severely aggravate the final grain availability for most small farmers using on-farm storage for self consumption as well as for mechanised farming schemes. PHLs are accounted for within the “annual food balance sheets” used by national authorities, international agencies and donors to calculate possible cereal deficits. They have been identified by EuropeAID and the JRC as crucial figures because of the limited availability of reliable data and the scarce transparency of current estimates.

PHLs can commonly reach 20% or more of the cereals harvest and, in the general context of the soaring food prices crisis, reducing PHLs has become part of an overall strategy of increasing agricultural productivity and reducing food insecurity. The PHL system has been welcomed by United Nations organisations in charge of food aid and early warning, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It will be tested by these organisations during field campaigns and for future food balance sheet operations.

A number of international organisations, such as the United Nation Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the African Development Bank (ADB), expressed their interest in further promoting the PHL information system.

This system was developed in the framework of an administrative arrangement between JRC and the Commission's EuropeAid Cooperation Office, and by a consortium formed by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) UK, ISICAD - BLE (German Agency for Agriculture and Nutrition) and the 2 African sub regional networks ASARECA (Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa) and SADC (Southern Africa Development Community).