Value Chain Improvement of Fresh Sweet Potato through the Utilization of Mechanical Harvester
The study determined the postproduction handling systems, losses and the needed intervention to improve the fresh sweet potato chain. Surveys were conducted among 350 sweet potato farmers in four major sweet potato producing provinces supplemented by the key informant interviews, focus group discussion and on-line search of secondary data. Actual loss assessments were undertaken adapting the tracing method and following two commercial marketing channels replicated 6 times for each marketing channel. The total average postharvest loss was 32.09 percent. Among the postproduction operations, quantity losses during harvesting were the highest at 15.96 and 17.94 percent for Bataan and Tarlac, respectively. Along the fresh sweet potato market chain, the farmer contributes the highest percentage share (41.63%) to the retail price on a per kilogram basis of fresh sweet potato. The farmer gets the highest share of income but also shoulders the highest cost of producing the commodity. Addressing the major constraints in postharvest operations undertaken by the farmers will improve their financial conditions and the fresh sweet potato chain in general. A potential technology intervention to address observed problems in harvesting operation, which contributes 53 percent to the overall postharvest losses, is the introduction of tractor-mounted conveyor-type digger to reduce losses and labor cost. Initial technical and financial performance indicated that the machine can reduce harvesting loss and increase farmer’s income by PhP23, 408 to PhP28, 936/ha. Reducing the harvesting loss can increase the quantity of fresh sweet potato available for sale by 2,076 to 2,316 kg/ha. Further, pilot testing of the technology should be done to evaluate its technical and financial viability as well as its social acceptability among sweet potato farmers. Information generated by this study can guide the policy makers to provide measures/policies for loss reduction and a more focused R&D to provide immediate and relevant solutions to more pressing constraints on postharvest operations of fresh sweet potato chain.