India is the second largest producer of potatoes after China in the world. Both countries are advanced in post-harvest handling, an aspect that majority of potato producing countries can learn from. Potatoes should reach the consumer in fresh and palatable condition at a reasonable price. High post-harvest losses of up to 40% occur in potatoes between harvesting and consumption stages. Thus, there is an urgent need to adopt proper post-harvest management practices by adopting improved packaging, handling and efficient transportation methods to reduce such losses.
Packaging is required to keep fruits, vegetables and root crops like potatoes in good condition until it is sold and consumed. It serves as an efficient handling unit to carry produce from field to consumer. The package should protect the produce against rotting. It should also protect the produce from damage.
Food packaging is defined as a mean or system by which fresh produce or processed product will reach from the production centre to the ultimate consumer in safe condition at an affordable price. Two main functions of packaging are: to assemble the produce into convenient units for handling and to protect the produce during distribution, storage and marketing.
Packaging materials serve as an efficient handling unit. It protects from mechanical damage, moisture loss and pilferage. For processed products, packaging provides sales and service motivation; it reduces the cost of transport and marketing. It also makes the products look attractive and keeps the products in a hygienic condition.
There are different packaging materials for ware potato such as;
- Basket made of woven strips of leaves, bamboo, plastic etc.
- Sacks: flexible, made of plastic or jute: i) Bags: small size sack ii) Nets: sacks made of open mesh
- Wooden crates
- Fibre board boxes: i) Solid fibre board boxes ii) corrugated fibre board boxes
- Plastic crates
- Biodegradable plastics
- Pallet boxes.
Packaging for processed products is of several types:
- Glass containers
- Metal cans
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic materials
- Collapsible containers
- Composite containers
It is recommended that packaging material should dissipate heat of respiration of the produce. It should also be free from infection and should be physiologically inactive. Packaging material should be useful in reducing shrinkage, protect produce from disease, reduce mechanical damage and provide a good surface for stick-on labels.
Over-packing should be avoided as it results in compression bruising. According to Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations 2019 packaging surfaces and equipment should be maintained to minimize produce damage and maximize accessibility for cleaning and sanitizing; routine cleaning for food contact surfaces; containers and sacks should be made of non-toxic materials and packages should not exceed 50kgs.
To sum it up, food packaging is a system by which the fresh or processed product will reach the consumer from the production centre in safe and sound condition at an affordable cost. It serves two basic objectives, i.e., marketing and logistics. Adopting improved packaging, handling and transportation methods during distribution and marketing can successfully reduce huge post-harvest losses. The product requirements, the marketing system, climatic conditions, potato varieties and the personnel preference will determine the type of packaging material to be used. Potatoes can also be used to make biodegradable packaging material.