Grades and standards for fresh agricultural produce are considered one of the main tools for the marketing of commodities in the local and international markets due to the worldwide commercialization of agricultural produce.
Fresh produce is expected to conform to specific criteria, such as: weight, size, shape, density, firmness, hygiene, packaging and labeling requirements.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MOA&F), in association with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Marketing and Agriculture for Jamaican Competitiveness (MAJIC) Project developed a Produce Grading Manual for selected crops.
This manual outlines a clear set of descriptive guidelines on quality, size, and labeling, packaging, 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 fraudulent marketing and deception
- Facilitates price and quality comparison
- Facilitates resolution of disputes regarding quality and or composition of shipped products
- Helps with distinguishing among quality levels for rewarding , often with higher prices for the better products
Fresh produce shall be packed and marketed in three grades as follows:
The preferred grade is perfect quality produce.
The general market grade, which may include produce with minor blemishes.
Lower quality produce which meets the minimum requirements, but is not up to the standard of Grade One or Two.
Important terms used in the development of Grades and Standards for Fresh Agricultural Produce
- Blemish: is any physical injury affecting the surface of the produce, such as scars, healed cracks and discolored spots, which detracts from its natural appearance, but will not significantly affect shelf life
- Bottle Necks: are abnormally thick necks with poorly developed bulbs
- Clean (visual) 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 of damaged areas, heads or multiple bases
- Damage: means any defect or combination of defects of physical of physiological (external or internal) causes which detracts from 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 neck of the produce (example onion).
- Fairly Smooth: means that 85 percent of the produce is free from any defects or roughness which more than slightly detracts from its general appearance
- Fairly well trimmed: means that 85 percent of root hairs, excess leaves and stems have been removed
- Fairly well shaped: means that 85 percent of the produce has the shape characteristic of the variety
- Firm: means not soft, shriveled or spongy
- Fresh: means that the produce maintains its reaped appearance and is not shriveled or showing any signs of dehydration
- Fully Matured: means that fresh produce has reached full development and is firm with a tough skin and has no sprouting or shriveling
- Mature: is the stage of maturity that allows the produce to possess the necessary quality characteristics that is desired by the consumer
- Nematode Damage: means scarring and discoloration (burning) caused by the feeding of the nematode on the surface of the produce, or lesion extending into the flesh of the produce
- Soft: means that the produce yields to moderate pressure
- Serious Damage: is any defect or combination of defects of physiological or physical cause which could lead to the abnormally quick deterioration of the produce and causes rejection
- Similar Varietal Characteristics: means that fresh produce in a container shall have the same general shape, color characteristic of skin and flesh
Further information can be had from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority by calling 1-888-ASK-RADA or contacting the Communications and Public Relations Department.