The services we render
Inspections on potatoes
The company is the official assignee of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to enforce the regulations applicable to the grading, packing and marking of potatoes destined for sale in the Republic of South Africa. These regulations are promulgated in accordance with the Agricultural Products Standards Act, 1990 (Act No. 119 of 1990).
In terms of its appointment Prokon renders an inspection service on potatoes that can be divided into two distinct categories, i.e:
• An inclusive inspection service to the potato industry on fresh produce markets with the emphasis on quality assurance, product management and grading. This service is backed-up by a database that is continuously updated to optimise its value to the producer in producing and marketing his product. The service has an added advantage for the potato industry as the processed information is provided to Potatoes South Africa to allow the latter to address identified problems. Examples thereof which were brought to the attention of Potatoes South Africa during the year under review were the problems experienced with marking requirements and in particular the date codes, the content not corresponding with the cultivar indicated on the bag, underweight bags and disease incidence.
• An inspection service on potatoes at distribution centres, wholesalers and retailers. The inspections at the distribution centres are conducted in terms of an agreement signed between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Prokon and commenced on 1 October 2013.)
All potatoes sold on fresh produce markets are inspected by Prokon. Early every day, before selling starts, both old stock and all new consignments are inspected, and all containers are marked accordingly under Prokon supervision. Products not complying with the quality standards as described in government regulations are reclassified.
Supplementary to the above services Prokon renders the following services to potato producers who market their potatoes through the fresh produce markets with the emphasis on quality assurance:
• Personal communication with the producers in order to ensure that consignments comply with the prescribed regulations. Producers were continuously informed about the age of market stocks, the quality of the produce and the correct application of the prescribed packing, marking and weight requirements.
• Making available stock statistics on markets in respect of class, size groups and packaging sizes which are of importance in the marketing planning and management of the potato crop. Stock and consignment management, which includes the transportation thereof, form an integral part of this service delivery component.
• The service ensures on the one hand that the buyer and the consumer purchase a product that complies with prescribed requirements and on the other hand that the producer’s trade mark represents quality. This has a tremendous promotional value for producers.
• In addition to the above the services ensure that the quality is measurable which holds definite benefits for the producers. It should also be taken into account that quality and stock levels are primary price determiners on the fresh produce markets which make the services rendered by Prokon that much more important.
• Providing an advisory service that, among others, includes the following:
- Identifying consignments suitable for the export market.
- Documenting information that makes traceability of consignments possible.
- Identifying and making recommendations in respect of consignments no longer suitable for human consumption.
- Inspecting product damage for insurance purposes.
- Providing information on product quality to make it possible for the market authorities to maintain basic food safety standards on markets.
• Visits to potato pack houses. The main aim of these visits is to improve the level of service delivery of pack house personnel with the emphasis on quality and the correct packing of potatoes.
Inspections on other fresh produce
Prokon renders an inspection service on fresh produce markets under contract for the following institutions:
• For the Deciduous Fruit Producers’ Trust on stone and deciduous fruit.
• For the South African Garlic Association on garlic.
• For Subtrop on Mangoes and Litchis.
Quality assurance on fresh produce markets
Prokon renders a quality assurance service to the certain fresh produce markets at. The service comprises quality control on all products, controlling of marking requirements in accordance with the prescribed regulations, stock control on the market floor, general hygiene and report-back to the market authorities and market agents. At present the service is rendered to the Kimberley, Klerksdorp and Vereeniging fresh produce markets.
Health services to fresh produce markets
Prokon renders an independent health service to certain fresh produce markets The service entailed writing-off produce of which the quality have deteriorated to such an extent that it was no longer suitable for human consumption. This service not only holds benefits for the market authorities as far as the maintenance of hygiene standards are concerned, but also creates a healthier trading environment which is in the interest of the producers and the buyers and consequently also the consumers. At present the service is rendered to the Cape Town and Klerksdorp fresh produce markets.
Stock taking on behalf of the Agricultural Produce Agents Council
Prokon renders a stock taking on behalf of the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC) on all municipal and private fresh produce markets as an additional watchdog action to safeguard the interests of the producer. The stock taking is aimed at, among others, verifying the correctness of consignments delivered by producers versus the stocks on the market floor and sales as well as produce written-off. Whereas the stock taking was originally only conducted on potatoes and onions, it has been extended to other fresh produce traded on markets during the year under review.
The results from all stock takings were submitted to the Agricultural Produce Agents Council on a confidential basis for evaluation and, if necessary, for the implementation of the necessary corrective administrative and legal actions.
Information service to Potatoes South Africa
The information logged onto the Prokon’s data base is supplied to Potatoes South Africa’s Department: Industry Information which is regarded as a necessity by the latter in executing its duties. The information supplied entails the volume of potatoes delivered to the fresh produce markets, the various classes and cultivars delivered per region and the volumes downgraded per region and the relevant reasons.
As part of the service monthly reports were sent to the regional managers / officers of Potatoes South Africa regarding the volumes delivered by a specific region together with the reasons and percentages of potato consignments downgraded. This service allows the regional managers to discuss the problems unique to the specific region and to recommend corrective action.
Light intensity measurement on fresh produce markets
Prokon measures the light intensity on all fresh produce markets in order to keep market authorities informed on the matter. This enables them to introduce corrective actions in those cases where the light intensity on the market floor is too high as it causes greening in potatoes.
The Prokon history
In the past certain products on fresh produce markets in South Africa were evaluated and classified by government officials to provide a uniform quality standard for purposes of buying and selling. This system played a major role in the price-forming mechanism of products sold on the markets and secondly in building the image of the products.
It was an integral part of the free market system, relied on by all associated with the production and marketing of fresh produce in South Africa. However, in 1985 Government decided that inspection services at fresh produce markets were not a priority and terminated the service.
The potato producers, however, considered grading and quality assurance essential elements in the marketing of potatoes and therefore assumed responsibility for the evaluation, grading, packing, marking and quality assurance of potatoes. The Potato Producers Organisation (PPO) consequently established Product Control for Agriculture (Prokon), a company charged with establishing and maintaining product quality control measures for potatoes on fresh produce markets for the benefit of the potato value chain, from the farmer through to the consumer.
Although the PPO (now Potatoes South Africa) was primarily responsible for the establishment of Prokon, it is a self-funding operation registered as a non-profit company. The structure of Prokon enables it to provide the same quality assurance services to other interested fresh produce industries.
Benefits of the quality assurance service
• Prokon personnel offer a vital product management service to farmers and farmer organisations because they cannot be on the market during their marketing season on a continuous basis. The service includes, e.g. age analysis; feedback on the condition of produce and advice on packaging. This ensures that product image is maintained and improved to the benefit of everyone.
• Quality assurance is an essential part of an information system. The availability of information per class, size group or container size, ensures better planning and management by all players in the fresh produce industry, currently only enjoyed by those in the potato industry.
• The quality assurance system provides the buyer and consumer with a guarantee of quality and value for money.
• It is an essential part of price forming at fresh produce markets.
• Back-up services, dissemination of information and training of retail staff in metropolitan centres are also offered.
• On request, specific services are rendered:
- Complete inspections
- Ripeness tests
- Figure lists – statistics according to class and size
- On site training of personnel as well as full course training for emerging farmers
To have complete inspection or even partial inspection, holds advantages for the relevant industry as well as the producer - being a large or a small scale farmer:
1. Consumer preference and demand are being established
2. Correct markings and thus traceability (which are internationally prescribed) are being encouraged
3. Food hygiene is being established and standardised
4. Poor quality produce are being kept away from the market which in turn reduces quantities and initiates better prices.
5. Feed back to the producer with available figures is extremely handy with regards to:
i) Marketing decisions
ii) Information regarding quality and therefore a better product and better price. The producer’s name is being promoted by consumer trust and demand. As an informed industry – The producer is able to make the right decision.
To make use of data from a Database is invaluable for a well-managed and successful farming business. Prokon`s database makes a valuable contribution to the producer's management strategy. It enables the producer to identify any problem in an early stage/beforehand. For the researcher the database is of great help to detect certain diseases. It also benefits the researcher to identify the spreading of pests. Prokon is also able to assist with the tracing of new diseases – the appearance and the areas where it occurs.
PROKON has been preparing to generally broaden its activities and make its expertise available to all who are using fresh produce markets and their facilities.
The importance of reliable quality assurance and its benefits to every category of fresh produce and those associated, from farmer to consumer, cannot be overstated. Other fresh produce industries which join the potato industry in establishing a sound quality assurance system with Prokon’s assistance, should experience real benefits from more efficient price forming mechanisms and improvements in their product standards and Image.
PACK HOUSE TRAINING
Pack house training to the benefit of the potato producers
Pack house training will be provided upon request by the farmer in his pack house on the farm.
How to apply
Contact your nearest Prokon officer or Potatoes South Africa regional manager or Henry van Deventer at Prokon head office: Tel: 012 325 4579 or cell: 083 561 5554
How will the training proceed?
A representative from Prokon will make an appointment to visit your pack house while in operation to determine the shortcomings and appropriate training. This will not interfere with the activities in the pack house.
This will be followed by a discussion with you to decide on training to be conducted where after the Prokon representative will address the pack house workers on the shortcomings in the sorting process and the importance of their work to the overall success of the potato component of the farming operation. Aspects that will be addressed are the total “farm to fork” process, i.e. from harvesting until it reaches the consumer. Special emphasis is place on food hygiene and food security. This will take approximately an hour during which time the plant will have to be shut down
What will the training entail?
• The necessity for quality control.
• The regulation applicable to quality control. Colour plates will be used to explain the process.
• The crop and processing.
• Reasons for the washing process and the quality of the wash water.
• The drying process and aspects that should be taken into account.
• The size of the soring plant and the correct setting as well as the flow tempo for correct.
• The sorting process and the sorting table.
• Identifying of different size groups and corrective action to ensure uniformity.
• Identifying the correct shape in the right class.
• Identifying the defects and classification in the right class
• Marking requirements.
• Bag requirements and the reasons for such requirements.
• Filling of bags, the correct mass and closure of bags.
• Handling and stacking on pallets as well as storing until dispatch.
• Weigh bill with the emphasis on correct completion and checking.
• The importance of each individual worker’s contribution to the success of the process, i.e. harvesting, washing, packing and transport.
What is the objective of the training?
The primary objective with the training is to:
• Equip each individual farm worker with the necessary knowledge and skills to improve the potato sector of the farming operation.
• Make each individual farmer worker aware of the importance of his contribution to the success of the potato value chain.