1.3 What fruit and vegetables can be processed?

Contents - Previous - Next

Practically any fruit and vegetable can be processed, but some important factors which determine whether it is worthwhile are:

  1. the demand for a particular fruit or vegetable in the processed form;
  2. the quality of the raw material, i.e. whether it can withstand processing;
  3. regular supplies of the raw material.

For example, a particular variety of fruit which may be excellent to eat fresh is not necessarily good for processing. Processing requires frequent handling, high temperature and pressure.

Many of the ordinary table varieties of tomatoes, for instance, are not suitable for making paste or other processed products. A particular mango or pineapple may be very tasty eaten fresh, but when it goes to the processing centre it may fail to stand up to the processing requirements due to variations in its quality, size, maturity, variety and so on.

Even when a variety can be processed, it is not suitable unless large and regular supplies are made available. An important processing centre or a factory cannot be planned just to rely on seasonal gluts; although it can take care of the gluts it will not run economically unless regular supplies are guaranteed.

To operate a fruit and vegetable processing centre efficiently it is of utmost importance to pre-organise growth, collection and transport of suitable raw material, either on the nucleus farm basis or using outgrowers.

1.4 Processing planning

The secret of a well planned fruit and vegetable processing centre is that it must be designed to operate for as many months of the year as possible. This means the facilities, the buildings, the material handling and the equipment itself must be inter-linked and coordinated properly to allow as many products as possible to be handled at the same time, and yet the equipment must be versatile enough to be able to handle many products without major alterations.

A typical processing centre or factory should process four or five types of fruits harvested at different times of the year and two or three vegetables. This processing unit must also be capable of handling dried/dehydrated finished products, juices, pickles, tomato juice, ketchup and paste, jams, jellies and marmalades, semi-processed fruit products.

Advanced planning is necessary to process a large range of products in varied weather and temperature conditions, each requiring a special set of manufacturing and packaging formulae. The end result of the efforts should be a well-managed processing unit with lower initial investment.

A unit which is sensibly laid out and where one requirement co-relates to another, with a sound costing analysis, leads to an integrated operation.

Instead of over-sophisticated machinery, a sensible simple processing unit may be required when planned production is not very large and is geared mainly to meet the demand of the domestic market.

1.5 Location

The basic objective is to choose the location which minimises the average production cost, including transport and handling.

It is an advantage, all other things being equal, to locate a processing unit near the fresh raw material supply. It is a necessity for proper handling of the perishable raw materials, it allows the processing unit to allow the product to reach its best stage of maturation and lessens injury from handling and deterioration from changes during long transportation after harvesting.

An adequate supply of good water, availability of manpower, proximity to rail or road transport facilities and adequate markets are other important requirements.

1.6 Processing systems

  1. Small-Scale Processing. This is done by small-scale farmers for personal subsistence or for sale in nearby markets. In this system, processing requires little investment: however, it is time consuming and tedious. Until recently, small-scale processing satisfied the needs of rural and urban populations. However, with the rising rates of population and urbanisation growth and their more diversified food demands, there is need for more processed and diversified types of food.
  2. Intermediate-Scale Processing. In this scale of processing, a group of small-scale processors pool their resources. This can also be done by individuals. Processing is based on the technology used by small-scale processors with differences in the type and capacity of equipment used. The raw materials are usually grown by the processors themselves or are purchased on contract from other farmers. These operations are usually located on the production site of in order to assure raw materials availability and reduce cost of transport. This system of processing can provide quantities of processed products to urban areas.
  3. Large-Scale Processing. Processing in this system is highly mechanised and requires a substantial supply of raw materials for economical operation. This system requires a large capital investment and high technical and managerial skills. Because of the high demand for foods in recent years many large-scale factories were established in developing countries. Some succeeded, but the majority failed, especially in West Africa. Most of the failures were related to high labour inputs and relatively high cost, lack of managerial skills, high cost and supply instability of raw materials and changing governmental policies. Perhaps the most important reason for failure was lack of adequate quantity and regularity of raw material supply to factories. Despite the failure of these commercial operations, they should be able to succeed with better planning and management, along with the undertaking of more in-depth feasibility studies.

It can be concluded that all three types of processing systems have a place in developing countries to complement crop production to meet food demand. Historically, however, small and intermediate scale processing proved to be more successful than large-scale processing in developing countries.

1.7 Choice of processing technologies for developing countries

FAO maintains (in FAO, 1992c), that the basis for choosing a processing technology for developing countries ought to be to combine labour, material resources and capital so that not only the type and quantity of goods and services produced are taken into account, but also the distribution of their benefits and the prospects of overall growth. These should include:

  1. increasing farmer/artisan income by the full utilisation of available indigenous raw material and local manufacturing of part or all processing equipment;
  2. cutting production costs by better utilisation of local natural resources (solar energy) and reducing transport costs;
  3. generating and distributing income by decentralising processing activities and involving different beneficiaries in processing activities (investors, newly employed, farmers and small-scale industry);
  4. maximising national output by reducing capital expenditure and royalty payments, more effectively developing balance-of-payments deficits through minimising imports (equipment, packing material, additives), and maximising export-oriented production;
  5. maximising availability of consumer goods by maximisation of high-quality, standard processed produce for internal and export markets, reducing post-harvest losses, giving added value to indigenous crops and increasing the volume and quality of agricultural output.

Knowledge and control of the means of production, local manufacturing of processing equipment and development of appropriate/new technologies and more suitable raw material for processing must all be better researched.

Decentralisation of activities must be maintained and coordinated. The introduction of more sophisticated processing equipment and packaging material must be subordinated to internal and export marketing references.

Choosing a technology solely to maximise profits can actually work against true development. Choice should also be based on a solid, long-term market opportunity to ensure viability.

The internal market should be given greater consideration, safeguarded and supported.

Training courses, at all levels, in processing and preservation of indigenous crops, must be expanded.

1.8 Fruit and vegetables - global marketing view

Fruit and vegetables - global marketing view

Contents - Previous - Next