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Marketing research sections are increasingly useful to governments in order to:
The section would conduct pre-investment surveys and feasibility studies for government plans but could also provide similar services for private projects of national significance.
Activities of the section would require a specialist in marketing economics, but it should have access also to specialists in all other subjects pertinent to fruit and vegetable marketing, such as agricultural science, post-harvest technology, town planning and construction engineering.
Since small farmers produce most of the fruit and vegetables grown in developing countries, any programme to improve marketing must include plans to upgrade their activities. Efforts directed to this end will be consistent with national development policies as most countries give high priority to improving the economic status and quality of life of the small farmer.
14.4.1 Problems to confront. Rapid economic development of small farmers is not easy to achieve. Their status is characterized by:
These are some of the obstacles to general development and must be addressed before small farmers can enter the economic mainstream of a developing country.
14.4.2 Improvement programmes. The immediate aim of a marketing improvement programme is generally to generate a higher income for farmers through:
It is not possible to achieve all these goals in a beginning marketing improvement programme. Priority must be given to identifying and attacking the main obstacles to progress, and all farmers will not have identical problems. Thus the programme for each farmer must confront his problems, propose solutions, and balance the costs with the likely benefits.
Problems like bad roads are easy to identify, but to orient the supply of produce to meet market needs is much more difficult to accomplish. The effective programme for small farmers will have to consist of a package of technical and logistical proposals; a few unrelated and superficial changes will not suffice.
Furthermore, the success of an improvement programme will depend on the establishment of a range of marketing services needed to achieve the development objectives. They can be:
Improvements in food and vegetable marketing can be made possible by the provision of the various technical supports, but the rate of development will depend to a large extent on how quickly these changes can be incorporated in day-to-day operations.
Government activity in promoting marketing improvement is important but its effect in the market place is limited. The most effective bodies to work for change are the private commercial enterprises concerned with trading. Their livelihood depends on conducting an efficient business that meets the needs of the industry. They are therefore most likely to respond to any changes that can work to their benefit.
In the traditional market operation, where produce passes from the farmer to a wholesaler and a consumer through a trader, the trader is seen in a necessary but suspect role: the "exploitive middleman". Various sharp practices have been ascribed to him, with the farmer on the losing end. Regulations to control trading have been adopted; cooperatives have been formed to eliminate private trading. The results are inconclusive, but the economic struggles facing cooperatives show that commercial trading requires considerable managerial skill and that traders' profits are in proportion to their ability to service the market: high turnover in exchange for low profit margin.
To be sure, some small traders are interested only in short-term profits and lack the vision, knowledge and capital to change existing practices. On the other hand, the possibilities for expanding markets and increased profits through widespread improvement of marketing practices would prove irresistible to most experienced and skilled traders.
There is now an increasing realization that profit is not only an acceptable motive for industrial efficiency but also a desirable aspiration. Many government-sponsored and cooperative marketing ventures have failed for lack of a profit motive and a sense of cost-effectiveness.
Private traders are acutely conscious of cost-effectiveness. They should be considered as a resource in any programme to improve marketing.
1. Bananas and plantains (Muse spp.)
Plantains; traditionally grown for cooking as part of the staple diet, or for processing into more durable products, such as flour, which can be stored for later food use.
Bluggoe; uses are similar to plantains as a locally consumed staple food.
Dessert; includes Gros Michel and Cavendish types, widely grown for export to temperate countries. The ripe fruit is also eaten where it grows, but in some countries it is cooked in the mature green but unripe state as a starchy staple.
Maturity for harvest
Published recommendations of maturity standards for export dessert bananas do not apply to bananas grown for local consumption. Many types of bananas are grown for local use in different countries, and these are cooked or processed in a variety of ways. When bananas are to be sent to distant urban markets they are best harvested in hard mature but unripe green state, which reduces the risk of deterioration during transport.
The method of harvesting will depend on the height of the plant. Low-growing varieties can be harvested by cutting through the bunch stalk about 30 to 35 cm above the top hand. With taller varieties, the stem of the plant will be partly cut through to bring the bunch down within the harvester's reach, and then the bunch stalk can be cut through. Harvested bunches are best carried on a foam-padded tray to reduce damage during carrying.
It is customary in most banana-growing countries to transport the fruit to market on the bunch. This practice injures the fruit during handling and transport, and it is not recommended. Bananas for urban markets will suffer less damage and look better if they are dehanded and packed in suitable boxes.
Selection and grading
Bananas which are very immature and small, badly damaged or decaying should be discarded. Size and quality grading will depend on the demands of the market. In the more sophisticated urban markets (e.g supermarkets), sizegraded and good-looking fruit may command a higher price.
All harvested bananas should be kept dry and in the shade before and after packing. Packing is best done in or as near to the field as possible. There must be facilities for keeping the fruit and packaging dry.
As soon as the hands of bananas are cut from the stem, they should be laid, curved side uppermost, across the midribs of fresh banana leaves (Figure CP I .1). This will prevent latex from the cut crown contaminating the fruit. Latex flow should stop in 12-15 minutes, after which the banana may be packed into wooden or, preferably, cardboard boxes, which can be of the slotted or telescopic type. Whole hands of bananas can be divided into clusters of four or more fruit which can be packed more compactly to give a greater weight of fruit per box.
The hands or clusters should be packed in the boxes with the curved side uppermost in the manner shown in Figure CP 1.2, making sure that the crowns of the upper hands do not damage the bananas underneath. Boxes should be full but not overpacked, otherwise the bananas will be damaged because the fruit itself and not the walls of the boxes will be supporting the upper boxes of the stack.
No special post-harvest treatments should be necessary for bananas sold locally or for those which will be sold to consumers in urban markets within four or five days.
If sales are to be delayed for a greater time and the fruit sold in a ripening condition, it may be necessary to wash and then dip or spray them with a fungicide before packing.
Figure CP 1.1 Hands of harvested bananas, once cut from the stalk, should be placed like this on a leaf midrib to let latex drain away from fruit
Bananas have a very short post-harvest life at ambient conditions. This is four to ten days when mature green and two to four days when ripe. Both green and ripe bananas are sensitive to cold and are damaged by temperatures less than 13 degrees Celsius.
Bananas harvested in the mature green stage will normally ripen under the local ambient conditions in which they are grown, but some types will not develop their full ripe skin colour. Where urban high-value markets demand fully coloured fruit, ripening under controlled conditions is best carried out on a large scale at the urban distribution point. The operation requires special equipment, good management and technical skills.
Where the ripening operation is to be undertaken locally, advice should be sought from specialists.
Figure CP 1.2 This is a typical sequence for the effective packing of banana hands in cardboard boxes
2. Citrus (Citrus spp.)
Oranges, grapefruit, mandarins; used ripe as fresh fruit and for juice.
Lemons and limes; used mature green or ripe for culinary purposes and for drinks.
Maturity for harvest
The assessment of the readiness of citrus fruit for harvest presents some problems for small-scale producers because:
These facts make it very difficult to assess harvest maturity just from the appearance of the fruit on the tree. Small-scale producers marketing their own fruit will be able to assess the readiness of their fruit on several counts, which will vary in different situations, for example:
- the juice has developed full flavour and is sweet;
- the fruit pulp has developed to the normal colour;
- juice drips from the half-fruit when the cut surface is held vertically.
Although the skin of citrus fruit is relatively tough and can tolerate some degree of pressure, it is easily cut or punctured, providing access to the serious post-harvest decay diseases: blue and green mould. Every care must be taken to avoid cutting or puncturing the skin of citrus fruits at all times. Clippers or secateurs should be used to remove the fruit from the tree. Fruit may be pulled by hand, but there is danger that the stem may be pulled out of the fruit, damaging the skin, or of damage to the tree providing an entry point for field diseases. Not more than 0.5 cm of stem should be left attached to the fruit. If the fruit is mature or ripe this piece of stem will dry up and fall off, leaving only the flower calyx (button) attached to the fruit. As it is harvested, citrus fruit should be placed in picking bags worn by the harvester or in plastic buckets.
Harvested fruit is taken in the harvesting container either directly to the packing facility or to the field assembly point, where it is emptied into field containers. At either point the fruit should be protected from exposure to sunlight and rain while awaiting packing or movement to the packing house.
Before it is packed the fruit should be sorted to eliminate all foreign material, such as leaves and twigs. The fruit is then inspected and pieces which are unripe, immature, undersized, damaged or decaying should be discarded. The extent to which superficial skin damage can be tolerated will depend upon the market. Local consumers may be more concerned about the eating quality of produce than its external appearance.
Where citrus is to be pattern-packed in custom-made cardboard boxes, it is usually an advantage to grade it into size categories. The differences between categories will depend on the type of fruit. Suggested minimum sizes and grade category differences for different commodities are:
|Commodity||Minimum (mm)||Grade difference (mm)|
|Oranges, lemons, mandarins||50||5-10|
Limes are not normally size-graded. Citrus sent to local markets in wooden crates will usually be size-graded by the retailer at the point of sale.
Citrus for sale in local and internal urban markets is packed in a variety of containers. Baskets, wooden boxes, sacks, bags, factory-made wooden crates and cardboard boxes are all used. Most citrus from large scale commercial production are now packed in telescopic cardboard boxes. Recommended outside dimensions for the box are 50x 30x 30 cm. These can be stacked eight boxes per layer on standard 1 x 1.2 m pallets. The capacity of these boxes is about 18-20 kg. Wooden crates can also be used for citrus provided they do not have sharp edges or splinters which will damage the skin of the fruit. Wooden crates should not exceed 25 kg capacity. Larger crates are difficult to handle and if dropped can severely damage the contents. Citrus fruits can be packed a little above the top of the box so that they are under slight pressure when the box is closed. This prevents movement of fruit within the box during transport and handling and allows for natural shrinkage.
Citrus produced for local and other internal markets should not require specific post-harvest treatments provided it is handled carefully and packed properly. Commercially grown citrus for export is normally washed, treated with fungicide and wax-coated on highly automated packing lines. There may be occasions where citrus for internal urban markets requires fungicide treatment. Where this is necessary, the fruit should be washed and dried after sorting, then treated with fungicide and dried before packing. In those countries where some types of citrus remain green when ripe it is not usually necessary to degreen them for market. Degreening will only change the colour of the skin of citrus fruits. It will not ripen them internally. Degreening is carried out by exposing the fruit to ethylene gas under controlled environmental conditions. It can only add to the cost of the fruit to the consumer, without any compensation in eating quality.
Citrus fruits can be held up to three weeks under ambient conditions, depending upon the temperature and moisture content of the air. In dry air they may lose moisture and shrink after a few days. Damaged fruit may become infected and decay quickly after harvest.
3. Mangoes (Mangifera indica cvs.)
The following information refers to mangoes produced for consumption in the ripe state. In some countries they are eaten in the unripe green state, or processed in this condition into pickles and other preserves.
Maturity for harvest
Mangoes will not ripen normally if they are harvested before reaching the fully mature-green stage on the tree: they will lack sweetness and be poor in flavour. Mature-green fruit left on the tree will ripen and eventually fall.
There are no simple reliable tests to indicate when mangoes are ready for harvest. A number of characteristics have been suggested for evaluating maturity, but they are not reliable for all cultivars or for all growing conditions. They must be interpreted in the light of local experience. They include:
No single one of these clues can be regarded as a reliable test of maturity for all cultivars. Observation and experience are the best guides for the small-scale producer.
Mangoes are best harvested with clippers or secateurs leaving not more than 5 mm of fruit stalk attached to the fruit. Mangoes can be pulled from the tree by hand leaving a longer amount of fruit stalk, but this then must subsequently be cut back to less than 5 mm. This method is not recommended since pulling the fruit often results in damage and subsequent decay at the stem end.
Figure CP3.1 There is no sure way to know when mangoes are ready for harvest. One of many methods is this: in immature fruit, the shoulders are below the level of attachment of the stem (a); in mature fruit, the shoulders have risen above the stem-attachment level (b). This method does not apply to all cultivars and must be considered with other factors
Small trees can be harvested by hand from the ground or from ladders. A high proportion of small-scale production of mangoes is, however, from old and large trees whose fruit is inaccessible to pickers on the ground. These fruits can be harvested by the use of picking poles with a net bag suspended by a metal ring of 25-30 cm diameter attached to the top of the pole. The ring of the picking pole usually has a device for cutting or pulling the fruit from the tree (Figure CP3.2). Some commercial picking poles are available but growers commonly make their own.
Mangoes are often harvested either by a picker on a ladder or by one who climbs the tree and throws the fruit to a catcher on the ground (Figure CP3.3).
Figure CP3.2 Picking poles are used to harvest tree fruit which cannot be reached from the ground or a ladder. Both the factory-made (a) and the home-made (b) types have a culling device and a catching bag
(Figure CP3. 2a is reproduced from A manual of post-harvest handling systems for perishable food crops, No 001 Mango, Ministry of Agriculture. Lands and Food Production, and UCA, Trinidad and Tobago, 1986.)
Harvested mangoes should be placed in field containers of not more than 25 kg capacity for movement to the packing shed. The fruit should be kept in the shade and handled carefully at all times after harvest.
Selection and grading
Before packing, all damaged, decaying, immature and ripe fruit should be removed. For local markets grading may not be necessary.
Fruit which is to be packed in cardboard boxes needs to be graded if it is to be pattern-packed in layers or to be packed in single layers in boxes with dividers.
Figure CP3.3 Mango-picker in the tree drops the fruit, and catcher breaks its fall using a jute sack supported by his hands and one foot. He then lowers the bag to ground level and the mango rolls out without damage
Mangoes do not normally need any post-harvest treatment for local marketing.
Fruits for urban supermarkets may need to be washed if they are heavily contaminated with latex or dust. If they are washed, they should be dried at once by spreading them in a single layer on a raised mesh or slatted rack, in the shade but with good air circulation. In no circumstances should the wet mangoes be piled up on the ground or left exposed to the sun to dry.
Anthracnose is the principal cause of post-harvest decay in mangoes. It is a latent infection, spread by raindrops which collect spores from the plant branches and spread them on to the fruit, where they germinate only after harvest as the fruit ripens. The disease does not respond to a post-harvest fungicide dip alone. On a commercial scale, mangoes for export are sometimes dipped in hot water containing fungicide for the control of this disease. The treatment is not appropriate for small-scale operations.
Various types of package are used for mangoes, depending on market requirements. Fruit for local markets is often packed in baskets or wooden crates, which may be lined with straw or leaves. Packs weighing more than 25 kg are difficult to handle carefully and can cause damage to the fruit.
For urban retailers and supermarkets it is now customary to pack mangoes in cardboard boxes holding 10 to 15 kg. Fruit can be loose packed (Figure 7.7) or in a single layer with dividers (Figure 7.9).
Boxes should not be overpacked or the fruit in lower boxes may suffer damage from the weight of boxes above. Underpacking results in excessive movement of the fruit within the box, and consequent bruising or abrasion damage. Mangoes packed in cardboard boxes can be displayed for retail sale in the box.
Mature-green mangoes have only a short life at ambient temperatures. Green matured mangoes can be stored for only about two weeks at 13 degrees Celsius. At temperatures below this, they suffer chill damage and fail to ripen afterwards. At ambient tropical temperatures they ripen in four to seven days. At such temperatures they can be held for only two to four days when ripe.
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