Harvest losses during transportation: how to avoid it?

perdas na colheita

Rural producers are always looking for solutions to increase efficiency and productivity in the field. But much of the production is still lost due to problems during harvest transportation.

Of the 268.1 million tons of food available in Brazil in 2013, almost 10% was lost, according to a survey by the  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Among the main causes of these losses are transportation, storage, handling and packaging.

In this context, reducing losses in harvest and transportation means increasing profits from agricultural activity. But do you know how to reduce harvest losses during transportation? What are the main causes of cereal, fruit and vegetable losses? Here are some helpful tips to avoid these problems and get better results.

Make good transportation planning

Agricultural production in Brazil is highly dependent on road transport. According to the National Transport Confederation (CNT), currently around 60% of the country’s cargo transportation matrix is concentrated on highways. There is, therefore, a great dependence on the sector in relation to road transport.

However, despite the importance of road transportation for the production flow, transport faces great difficulties due to the precarious conditions of the highways. Also, according to the CNT, only the precarious conditions of Brazilian highways raise transportation costs by 26.7%.

Another challenge is the long distances, due to the territorial extension of the country. Brazilian agricultural products travel, on average, more than 1,500 km in land sections. Furthermore, when they arrive at the ports, the products frequently face traffic, which delays even more the flow.

The agricultural products losses are greater precisely during their transportation. During the harvest period it is easy to find grain that fall from trucks scattered all over the highways. To reduce these losses, it is necessary to invest in the road’s improvement, in the fleet renewal, in the regular scales adjustment, in the workforce qualification, among other factors.

Be careful with logistics planning

To avoid losses in transportation, it is important to choose and plan the best logistics and freight for your grain’s transportation. For this, the logistics management needs to know, clearly, which lot needs to be sent for distribution, when it will leave, which vehicle will make the trip, among other details. This allows the cargo preparation team sufficient time to properly pack and load the products.

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Transportation planning must also take into account the product categories, their characteristics and also factors such as seasonality. For logistics to be efficient from start to finish, it is essential that the flow of data and information is constant and very well controlled.

To optimize logistics, producers must use technologies such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which help in monitoring all production chain stages. In addition, software such as production sensors and the automated fleet supply system allow greater resource savings and operating costs control.

With these technologies, it is possible to manage all orders, control stocks, monitor transportation routes, select the most suitable equipment and employ accurate metrics.

Learn how to reduce harvest losses

Harvesting is one of the most important production process stages, as it helps to ensure a quality product and provides a higher yield to the crop. However, if done poorly, it can lead to grain and financial losses.

Annually, about 10% of the Brazilian grain harvest is lost between sowing and harvesting, according to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE). These losses result from various factors, ranging from the grains collection with an inadequate ripeness degree to transportation and storage operations. To avoid unforeseen events, the producer needs to have a good machinery infrastructure and to know in advance how many harvesters and other machines will be required. Otherwise, you may have to rent equipment from third parties, which ends up being more expensive.

The use of suitable machines speeds up operations and allows much larger crops to be harvested in less time, increasing productivity. Crop losses also occur due to errors in the machine adjustments and lack of equipment maintenance. Also consider the need for other machines to load and unload products, materials, and equipment, such as tractors, trailers and trucks. In addition, you must plan the maintenance of the machines, so that the operations run smoothly, without the need to stop for repairs.

Learn about the recommended postharvest procedures

Care in the postharvest period is also very important, as it ensures that the grains have adequate transport and storage.

Grain storage is another important step to avoid harvest losses. The deficiencies in this stage translate into bottlenecks in the agricultural sector, trade and distribution.

Storage should be carried out observing the correct practices of collection, cleaning, drying, insect control and fungus prevention.

It is also important to invest in technologies that allow storage in hermetic conditions, protecting the grain from moisture and plagues.

In addition to avoiding losses, good storage allows the producer to wait for the most attractive moment in the market to sell the grain, thus generating higher income.

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Understand how distribution logistics works

Distribution logistics refers to postharvest treatment, either in transport or in storage. It involves evaluating the characteristics of each product and the time it will take to reach the final destination to which it will be transported. After the harvest, it is necessary to define the products destination and the route that will be taken to reach the final destination. This way, it is easier to know what stock environment type you will need and what vehicle you can use to serve your customer.

In agribusiness, product transport operations are subject to very specific needs, such as expiration, fragility and harvest seasonality, among others. Therefore, each product requires a different postharvest treatment.

For example, fruits are extremely perishable and require a lot of care, such as fast and careful transportation, proper packaging, storage at pleasant temperatures, and high relative humidity.

Therefore, distribution logistics must provide ideal transport and storage conditions. Special attention must be taken to factors such as ambient temperature, air humidity, and the packaging used in handling.

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As we have seen, some care with logistics and agricultural management can contribute to significantly reduce harvest losses and bring more efficiency and productivity to the sector.

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