The fresh produce sector is a growth market driven by improvements in quality, variety and all year round availability. The industry has to satisfy ever higher quality requirements combined with high labour costs, an emphasis on reductions in chemical inputs, both pre- and post-harvest, and market demand for ready prepared products. For growth to continue, the industry has to be prepared to adopt a wide range of technologies to enable extended shelf-life while maintaining product quality. Continued research and development is therefore needed worldwide to find improved ways of increasing the stability and shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. Providing consumer confidence can be gained, genetic engineering may hold the key to dramatic changes in the management of fresh produce shelf-life in the future.
It can be concluded that those who wish to improve the control of fresh produce quality need a broad knowledge base, including aspects of horticulture, physiology, biochemistry, plant pathology and molecular biology. They also need to be familiar with a wide range of technologies and management strategies, ranging from packaging options to cool chain management. Maintaining quality of fresh produce for both the fresh produce markets and processing industries promises to remain a challenging but fascinating activity.
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