Standard grading of grain quality

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It was noted above that there is more than one reason to establish standards. Consumerorientated standards tend to specify the nature of a commodity on a pass or fail basis, particularly in relation to wholesomeness or fitness for consumption. Producer or marketorientated standards tend to grade grain into one of several classes based usually on inherent quality and projected market value.


Fair average quality (FAQ)

The selling and buying of produce on a Fair Average Quality (FAQ) basis, as practiced by many national and international marketing agencies, is essentially subjective. Normally, samples from different parts of the available stock of produce offered for sale (which may be scattered on farms or in warehouses throughout the producing area) and submit them under seal to independent assessors (public analysts or the like) for appraisal. After examining the samples by sight, smell, taste and (perhaps) touch, the assessors will eslect those samples which they consider representative of the bulk of the samples, mix them together and reduce the lot to a single reference sample which is declared to represent the Fair Average Quality of the seller's stock. Parts of this sample may be used for certain objective tests, e.g. determination of percentage moisture content, oil content, free fatty acid content, or bulk density, if requested by the sellers, buyers or both. In any event, the main part of the reference sample is retained by an independent agency such as the Grains and Feeds Trade Association (GAFTA) for a specified period, during which any transactions involving the produce should be completed. If there is a dispute over quality the independent agency can be referred to for arbitration, and the reference sample may be used as evidence.

It is important to appreciate that the results of the FAQ assessment relate only to the crop which has been sampled, and only for the period agreed upon between the sellers and buyers. If consecutive FAQ same from the same crop, or FAQ samples from the same growing area in consecutive years, or FAQ samples of the same commodity grown concurrently in different areas are compared objectively significant differences in quality may be revealed. Thus FAQ has a loose definition, and can only be applied when fairly wide variations in quality can be tolerated.

The main advantage of FAQ is, of course, that it enables producers to dispose of most of their crop with the minimum of trouble and expense. At the same time the buyer can expect to gain by paying only a moderate price for the crop, although he does run the risk of having to bear the cost of additional processing is quality is some way short of optimal.


Grain specification

Table 3.1 includes the EC minimum quality intervention standard for wheat. There is a series of Articles in the Commission Regulations, in which relaxations of these grading standards are noted at individual national level. The Articles also allow a deduction or premium to be made according to changes in individual characteristics, e.g. increased prices paid for lower mc and grain defects, and for higher specific weights (bulk densities).

In comparison, ISO 7970 allows lighter grain with higher mc higher damaged grain, but lower extraneous matter. 'Wheat' as specified must contain a low amount of non-wheat matter, but tolerates higher levels of grain defects, whereas 'wheat' as graded incorporates an element of processing value for the purchaser by rewarding desirable properties.

Conway et al (1992) studied quality/value relationships in milled rice. In a system with wellorganised grain quality inspection, they found that qualities apparent at acceptance were only partially reflected in the wholesale price. More cryptic qualities, manifested as change in 'colour' during storage, formed the greater part of the valuation. It is a measure of the success of the application of the acceptance standard that these qualities did not feature largely in the valuation; also, of the valuers' reliance on, or habituation to, the standard. It shows that the acceptance system should not be relaxed, rather that it may need supplementing to cover the newly-identified qualities.

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