The Herald (Harare)

5 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Standards, Grades Key in Informal Markets

Many people do not realise that some top supermarkets, hotels and restaurants procure their fresh products from the informal markets like Mbare Musika. Many other discerning individuals also use those markets.

Because of the specific needs of such highly selective clients, the informal traders have become experts at grading produce. So if you have been holding back on taking advantage of the abundant choice and wide range offered by these sellers, here is some information that may help you reconsider.

Horticulture products can have a vast array of characteristics such as weight, size, shape, density, firmness, insect damage, cleanliness, colour, taste, odour, maturity, blemishes and moisture content.

That is why a common business language is vital so eMkambo has codified local standards on which business transactions occur. For every commodity we now have grades A to C (Superior, Grade B and Economy grade) based on information from traders, farmers, consumers and institutional buyers. This also serves to inform the farmer on the market needs before production.

Leaf Greens: Cove, Rape, Tsonga, Chomoulier Grade A

Visual Appearance

The leaves must have the same general characteristics such as variety, colour and character of growth, different varieties are not supposed to be mixed or bunched together for instance putting tsunga and rape in one bunch, the leaves must be:

Fresh;

Soft and tender;

Uniform green colour.

They must be free from:

Any foreign material such as dirt;

Insect and pests infestation or damage;

Damages caused by mishandling, hailstorms;

Leafy discolouration such as yellowing, or browning;

The leaves are not suppose to have any parts that are dry;

Torn leaves and damaged parts of the leaf.

Grade B

The leaves must have general characteristics such as variety, colour ,character of growth, different varieties are not suppose to mixed together or bunched together:

Fairly fresh, not showing extreme signs of wilting;

Fairly tender;

Fairly coloured.

They must be free from:

Any form of decay;

Soft rot, dirt or

Any other foreign material;

Serious damage;

Discolourations covering more than 10 percent of the total surface of the leaf; the discolourations may include yellowish spots, brown spots such discolourations show onset of wilting;

Bunches should not contain more than 15% of leaves that would have suffered mechanical damage, the leaves being torn by hailstorms or crushed leaves during handling and transportation;

Mould or rot.

Tomatoes

Grade A

Visual appearance

The box should contain tomatoes of the same general characteristics i.e. should be of the same firmness and shade of colour, shape, for example pork jam tomatoes should not be mixed with money makers. The tomatoes should meet the following requirements

Basic Requirements

Mature, have reached the stage of development which will ensure proper completion of ripening process, the seeds are well developed;

Well formed;

Well shaped, the shape should be typical of that variety i.e. if they are money makers they are suppose to round;

Clean-free from any foreign material such as dirt;

Uniform coloured -- please note that this differs with types and colours range from an orange hue to deep red;

In shape and not all squashed up or damaged;

They should be free from:

Bruises;

Healed and unhealed scars;

Freezing injuries;

Sunscalds;

Cat face;

Damages induced by calyx pulling away;

Decay and rot.

The Tomatoes should not be abnormally soft which is accompanied by an unusual watery appearance as they will be unable to withstand normal handling during transportation

Grade B

The box should contain tomatoes that are of the same general characteristic such as shape, size and colour of tomatoes, different sizes and varieties should not be mixed or put in the same box. The tomatoes should meet the basic requirements of the first grade.

The exceptions being:

Fairly shaped , their shape is distorted and not exactly of the typical variety;

The tomatoes must be reasonably well formed;

They should not be more than slightly rough;

They should be free from:

Sunburns;

Decay;

Chemical residue;

Foreign material such as dirt;

Unhealed scars if they cover more than 10% of the tomatoes;

Damage tearing into the flesh as a result of the calyx pulling away;

Bruises if they penetrate into the flesh of the tomatoes, such that the flesh is clearly visible;

Damages caused by insects extend well into the flesh;

Coloured black dots caused by diseases are more than 6 by physical count;

Economy

This is the lot that may have failed to sell at the peak of their freshness or have been damaged in handling and transportation. They may also have been affected during the production process.

But they should have:

Normal colouring;

Not excessively damaged to the extent that they become unfit for human consumption;

They should be free from sunscalds, freezing injuries.

More insights for farmers, traders and customers can be obtained through eMKambo Call Centre mobile numbers: 0772 137 717 /0772 137 758 /0716 331 140-5/ 0771 859 000-5 /0739 866 343-6. Email: charles@knowledgetransafrica.com, clever@knowledgetransafrica.com , laizah@knowledgetransafrica.com zvifadzo@knowledgetransafrica.com

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