Returns to Investment in Reducing Postharvest Food Losses and Increasing Agricultural Productivity Growth

In this paper, we assess the levels of infrastructure investment and rates for return on investments to reduce postharvest losses (PHL). Food security impacts and rates of return to reducing PHL are compared to rates of return to productivity-increasing research and development (R&D) investment. First we undertake of review of the literature on the magnitude of PHL. Next we undertake an econometric analysis of the impact of infrastructure investments on PHL using a panel data set. Third, we quantify the investments required for any given level of PHL reduction by combining marginal effect analysis based on the econometric estimation with data on unit costs for specific infrastructural variables. Fourth, we undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the required infrastructural investments to assess whether or not significant efforts in PHL reduction are economically feasible; and compare these to the rates of return to investments in R&D. These scenarios show that investment in infrastructure for PHL reduction contributes to lower food prices, higher food availability, and improved food security, and has positive economic rates of return. However, improvements in food security and marginal returns to investment in agricultural research are considerably higher for investment in agricultural research than for investment in PHL reduction. Reductions in PHL are not a low-cost alternative to productivity growth for achieving food security. Rather, reduction in PHL through improved infrastructure requires large public investments and is complementary to investments in long-term productivity growth to achieve food security.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-29

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