The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is making a clarion call to all fresh vegetable producers, packers and importers in South Africa to comply with the regulations relating to the grading, packing and marking of fresh vegetables intended for sale in South Africa. Compliance with the requirements of the defined regulations is quite instrumental to the participation of smallholder farmers in the formal market of which the majority are still struggling to act in accordance with relevant regulations, and that has led to their skewed participation in the formal market.

The sale of fresh vegetables in South Africa is regulated in terms of the Agricultural Product Standards Act, 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990), Regulation No. R.364 of 24 May 2013 which prescribes vegetables shall comply with the key elements which include, among others, grading, packing and marking requirements. This regulation provides market requirements for: beetroot, cabbages, carrots, spinach, artichokes, courgettes/baby marrows and parsley; asparagus, cucumber, parsnips, aubergines/eggplant, endives, pumpkins and fennel; broccoli, radish, gem squash, rhubarb, brussel sprouts, ginger and scorzonera; butternut, green beans, green onions, sweet corn and capsicums/ peppers; sweet potatoes, green peas, okra, horse-radish, turnips, cauliflower and chinese cabbage; leeks, witloof chicory, celery, lettuce, mushrooms and chillies and unspecified vegetables.

The Regulation provides detailed requirements on classes of vegetables, quality standards for different classes, container requirements, packing requirements, and packing material, marking requirements, restrictions and noncompliance. Failure to adhere to the aforementioned elements may lead to the product being downgraded, losing value and failing to attract buyers and/or being rejected in the market.

On a general note, fresh vegetable farmers, packers and/or importers are advised to comply with the market requirements enshrined in the Agricultural Product Standards Act, 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990) and its regulations and in particular apply Good Agricultural Practices in order to produce quality, healthy and safe produce that can compete in the market. Farmers, packers and importers are also advised to abide by the food safety measures as per the requirements generated by the Department of Health in South Africa.

Your success as a vegetable producer, packer or importer is dependent on good compliance with relevant food safety and quality assurance measures. Remember, compliance begins in the farm: produce to sell instead of producing and then selling. In particular, the ability to comply is quite instrumental in attaining the objectives of the National Development Plan in terms of fighting unemployment, ensuring economic growth and positioning South Africa in the world through marketing and supplying the world with produce that meets market requirements, i.e. marked and packaged properly, good quality and healthy and safe to consume.

For further information on other regulations for regulating local produce such as agronomy, deciduous fruit, animal products, processed products, local vegetables and local citrus and subtropical fruit, please contact the Directorate: Food Import and Export Standards at 012 319 6118.

Article supplied by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries