Participation in Quality Assurance Programs in the Apple Industry
There are several quality assurance (QA) programs operating in Australia for horticulturalists. The documentation of orchard activities and decision making are key features of any QA system. Activities of interest are management of pest and diseases, irrigation, fertiliser management, and fruit production and packing. This documentation provides a means of tracing product flow and is evidence that growers are acting in an environmentally responsible manner to help achieve food safety. QA systems are also often a means to assist growers in their production decisions and in some situations participation in QA is a precondition for supplying fruit to some markets. In this paper we present the findings of research designed to obtain insights into apple growersâ€™ participation in QA programs. The research involved in-depth interviews with growers as well as analysis of a mail survey. In relation to market access, growers observed that they could supply fruit to domestic and (some) exporters and export markets without participating in a QA scheme, provided they could supply spray diaries. Hence, non-participation in a QA program did not necessarily mean exclusion from markets. In the absence of a premium for participation in QA, or exclusion for non-participation, the main benefits to participating in a QA program were the advantages made possible by record keeping, such as improved orchard management. Unfortunately, most growers believed that, apart from using spray diaries to assist in pest and disease management, there were limited benefits in keeping records. Growers therefore were inclined to treat any claims regarding QA programs with suspicion.
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