Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Classification of fruit

Despite having a fruit and veg box from abel & cole, you don't always get all you need. And I seem to need a lot of oranges at the minute, so I bought some organic beauties. It was only then that i saw they were Class II quality. I've never paid much attention to this before (my dad moaning about the quality of the veg in his supermarket aside), but i thought I'd have a look as to what this meant.

On the Defra website, here it states that all citrus fruit must meet minimum requirements (too many to mention here). For a Class I citrus fruit it has to meet other standards as well:

Citrus fruit in this class must be of good quality. They must be characteristic of the variety and/or commercial type.
The following slight defects, however, may be allowed provided these do not affect the general appearance of the produce, the quality, the keeping quality and presentation in the package:
- slight defect in shape
- slight defect in colouring
- slight skin defects occurring during the formation of the fruit, such as silver scurfs, russets, etc

Now for the point of this post. The oranges I bought look lovely, proper oranges, but for these to be Class II, they must have been considered more defective than 'slight'. Is this a problem that all organic produce has to face? And if so, will it ever change? Does Class II mean the produce is worth less to the grower, as I imagine a lott of it doesn't come out looking perfect? If so, is it inhibiting farmers growing organic produce due to reduced profit? Anyone know?


Annette said...

I don't know but here's what I suspect. The grower (organic or otherwise) believes that the more produce he sells the more successful and profitable he will be. Either he chases after a supermarket contract or is approached by a supermarket for a contract. At negotiation stage, supermarket is all sweetness and light and everyone is jolly and excited about doing business together.

Once the contract is signed, the grower finds that he cannot support his existing customers due to the volumes the supermarket requires or through an exclusivity deal with the supermarket. He is now wholly dependent on the supermarket for his entire business survival. Supermarket then starts to squeeze and 'enhances' its produce selection criteria meaning that the grower gets Class II prices for what was last week Class I Produce. The grower has no other options left but to comply. The supermarket then has the luxury of sometimes being able to overdeliver on quality (not often) or to be able to damage the produce in transit or otherwise diminish the quality through overlong transport and storage and still be within the DEFRA guidelines.

Perhaps I'm too much of a cynic where supermarkets are concerned....

al said...

I'm sure you're more than right. I'm intrigued now as to whether able & cole use the classification. I guess they must, but we always get nice little notes about produce maybe having a few bugs. (Which I'm more than happy about!)