The food and beverage industry has been growing rapidly as fruit and vegetable processing increases. As more processing plants are being set up, the global demand for fruits is expected to rise by more than 10% in the next 5 years. Fruits are extensively used in making products such as juices, jam, tomato sauce, cosmetics, and beverages such as wine.
The key issue, however, is how food supply chains are going to be managed by processing companies and farmers. How are the two groups going to maximize on quality and production of fruits and end products?
Sustainability when outsourcing agricultural products
Managing supply chains is a difficult task from a business perspective. Challenges such as poor production and product quality are common when poor management techniques are employed. This results to food waste and losses. Some critical issues on quality and production management include:
Harvesting fruits too early or too late
Fruits should be harvested at the right time when they mature. However, some farmers tend to harvest fruits before they mature which is a common issue especially in the macadamia subsector. Most immature fruits end up being rejected by buyers. Also, some farmers harvest their fruits later on after maturity. What happens when they do this? Fruits such as watermelon, citrus, and pomegranates start splitting while other fruits become overripe and they start rotting.
Irregular shape and size of fruits
Fertilization, manuring, and pest control management techniques employed determines the shape and size of fruits. Over-fertilization can make the fruits to be extremely large. Most customers will find this abnormal and only a small number will purchase the fruits. Poor management such as under-fertilization, pest control, and manuring will make the fruits have an irregular shape and small size. Buyer s also won’t be willing to buy that. This means the farmer will be forced to dispose a large chunk of the fruits meaning more losses.
Differences in knowledge and a dispersed supplier network
Crop production requires attention and clpose supervision especially when growing a fruit that you are growing for the first time or using new technologies. The fact that suppliers are in different geographical locations makes the agricultural supply chains complicated. The supplier network is made up of farmers with advanced knowledge and non-skilled ones. If the farmers are not careful, these suppliers can end up affecting their entire season.
Poor crop management
Poor disease and pest control, ineffective weed control, and failure to apply manure and fertilizers results to extremely low yields and poor product quality. Also, poor choice of seedlings can also result to poor performance, low yields, and a longer maturity of the fruit tree.
Maintain high product quality
High-quality products will always attract the attention of many buyers. To avoid losses, farmers have a role to play to maintain their market share in the local and export markets. To help farmers manage the fruit quality, sourcing companies should:
Have a common place to interact with farmers
with the advancements in technology, software have been developed which provide an ideal ground for farmers to interact. This can help in nurturing the relationship between farmers and buyers, companies, agronomists.
Equip farmers with management practices that they can utilize
Agronomy support is always important in fruit farming to help farmers employ proper orchard management techniques. Educating farmers will help them avoid unproductive practices and show them the methods they can use to improve productivity in their farms.
Present their requirements in clear terms
The export market is highly demanding and is quite keen when it comes to quality. Exporters should present the product requirements in understandable terms to help farmers know where they need to improve and how they can maximize on the product quality.
Ensure there is traceability and transparency to help farmers understand the performance of the export markets
A digital solution to enhance product quality
These days, farmers are migrating to digital agriculture. A cloud-based platform can be an ideal solution to improve production and product quality. An integrated management platform can help farmers have a common place to:
- Market their produce – With a large number of potential customers in a single platform, buyers can select the most appropriate buyer for their produce.
- Interact with other farmers, buyers, agronomists, and farm input suppliers – real-time communication in a common place can be an important environment for farmers to share or look for information. Also, farmers can know the best places to purchase seedlings and farm inputs.
- Monitor performance – An online platform can help farmers monitor production crop traceability, and product quality. They can also monitor the performance of their crops and weather patterns. This will also help them know the best pest and disease control method to apply. While still communicating with other farmers, farmers can learn how they can ensure higher yields and high quality fruits.