Grades and standards for fresh agricultural produce are considered among the main tools for the marketing of commodities in the local and international markets due to worldwide commercialisation of agricultural produce.
Fresh produce is expected to conform to specific criteria such as weight, size, shape, density, firmness, hygiene, packaging and labelling requirements.
They are also expected to confirm to the various pesticide limits that are established by CODEX and implemented by countries involved in global trade.
Jamaican produce is increasingly being scrutinised and, at times, subject to rejection and the ultimate loss of income and market share that took years to establish.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in association with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and Marketing and Agriculture for Jamaican Improved Competitiveness Project, has developed a procedure grading manual for selected crops.
This manual outlines a clear set of descriptive guidelines on quality, size labelling, packaging, and hygiene and grade classification. The aim is to create a clear communication system between buyers and sellers of fresh agricultural produce.
Helps define contracts for delivery
Reduces the risk of deception and fraudulent marketing
Facilitates price and quality comparison
Facilitates resolution of disputes regarding quality and or composition of shipped products
Distinguishing among quality levels and rewarding, often with higher prices for the better products
Fresh produce shall be packed and marketed in three grades as follows:
Grade 1: The preferred grade established for perfect quality produce.
Grade 2: The general market grade which may include produce with minor blemishes.
Grade 3: Lower quality produce which meets the minimum requirements, but are not generally up to the standard of Grade 1 or Grade 2.
Blemish is any physical injury affecting the surface of the produce, such as scars, healed cracks and discoloured spots, which detract from the produce's natural appearance, but will not significantly affect its shelf life.
Bottle necks are abnormally thick necks with poorly developed bulbs.
Clean produce is free from adhering soil, insects, chemical deposits and other foreign matter.
Cut surface means exposed surface of the produce resulting from the removal or damage areas, heads or multiple bases.
Damage means any defect or combination of defects of physical or physiological (external or internal) cause which detracts from the edible or marketing quality of the produce
Doubles is the development of more than one distinct bulb joined only at the base.
Disease is any defect or combination of defects caused by micro-organisms.
Dry cured means the removal of excess moisture from the wrapper scale leaves and necks of the produce; for example, onions.
Fairly smooth means that 85 per cent of the produce is free from defects or roughness which more than slightly detracts from its general appearance.
Fairly well trimmed means that 85 per cent of the root hairs, excess leaves and stems have been removed.
Fairly well shaped means that 85 per cent of the produce has the shape characteristics of the variety.
Firm means not soft shrivelled or spongy.
Fresh means that the produce maintains its reaped appearance and is not shrivelled or showing any signs of dehydration.
Information for the RADA Diaries is compiled and provided by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority Communication and Public Relations Department.