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Abstract

With the emergence of private food safety and quality standards in developed countries fruit exporting countries in the developing world face increasing constraints to access markets in the rich industrialised countries in the North. Producers in the South have no alternative as to make the necessary investments on farms and in pack houses to comply with the requirements of these food quality and safety standards. The export of fresh fruit is an important component of South African agricultural exports, with citrus fruit exported to markets such as Europe being of particular importance. This paper reports selected results from a large research project into the impact of private standard compliance on the quality of the fruit and the returns to farmers. The research process involved a multi-disciplinary analysis of Agricultural Economics and Microbiology / Plant pathology as we analysed the dynamics of the citrus export supply chain from the farms in South Africa to the end consumer in Europe. Sampled fruit containers were followed through the whole supply chain which allowed us to provide an exposé of the behaviour of the different actors in the citrus supply chain and obtain some evidence of poor handling and hygiene standards by means of a comparison of the experimental observations with various relevant components of the EurepGAP control points and compliance criteria for fruit and vegetables. Observations suggest that these standards are adequately applied to the production and handling of fruit at the farm and pack house levels while on the other hand the subsequent stages (mainly after the importing harbour in Europe) of the fruit supply chain are seemingly not subjected to the same strict requirements laid out for producers, leading to fruit quality deterioration and financial losses for producers. This constitutes clear parallel standards in terms of fruit safety and quality standards between upstream and downstream sections of the supply chain and questions thus the purpose of the standards and the financial return for producers making large investments to comply with these privately introduced standards.

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