African Postharvest Losses Information System – a network for the estimation of cereal weight losses


  • R. J. Hodges Natural Resources Institute, Chatham Maritime, Kent, ME4 4TB, UK. Email:
  • M. Bernard BLE / ISICAD, Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE), 53168 Bonn, Germany
  • H. Knipschild BLE / ISICAD, Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE), 53168 Bonn, Germany
  • F. Rembold Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, 21027 Ispra, via Fermi 2749, Italy



Soaring food prices during 2007/2008, and the realisation that sporadic food shortages are likely to continue long into the future, has reawakened interest in the benefits of reducing food losses. As a means of making more accurate estimates of how much food is lost, the Joint Research Centre (European Commission) proposed the development of the African Postharvest Losses Information System (APhLIS) ( APhLIS estimates postharvest losses (PHLs) by cereal crop, by country and by province in East and Southern Africa. The system went live in March 2009 and combines a loss calculator, a free access database of key information, and a network of local experts who contribute the latest data and verify loss estimates. The loss calculator works of loss figures contributed from the literature and by local experts but also takes account of the prevailing climate, scale of farming (small/large), damp weather at harvest, larger grain borer (in the case of maize), proportion of grain held in farm sorage or marketed, and multiple harvests. Before the introduction of APhLIS, the origin and justification of PHL estimates were not well founded. Now PHL estimates are available that are
• Transparent in the way they are calculated
• Based on a complete screening of available research and literature
• Contributed (in part) and verified by local experts
• Based on the primary national unit (i.e. province not just country level, so estimates are more relevant)
• Upgradeable as more (reliable) data become available, so that there is the opportunity for increasing accuracy in loss estimation over time.
• Supported by a downloadable loss calculator that can be used to make loss calculations at a
geographical scale below primary national unit.
In the future, APhLIS may be expanded in technical scope (crops) and geographical range (countries) and used to help prioritize and justify loss reduction strategies including those for grain storage.

Keywords: Weight loss, Loss calculator, Postharvest operations, Cereal supply