Supervision is all

In the 22 June issue of Farmer’s Weekly, Paul Lynch, chairperson of the SA Wool & Mohair Buyers Association, bemoans the lowering of wool classing standards, saying: “Farmers are not spending as much time in shearing sheds as in the past.”

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Replace ‘shearing sheds’ with ‘packing sheds’ and the same applies to fresh produce. A visit to any fresh produce market will confirm some farmers don’t spend enough time grading and packing their fresh produce. You’ll see mixed sizes, colours and degrees of ripeness all tossed – definitely not packed – into one unit. Admittedly those who are guilty are in the minority, but they lower the overall standards on a market floor.

How can you spend considerable sums of money and time growing a product only to leave the grading and packing to untrained and unsupervised staff? Sloppy management and indifferent workmanship are going to result in products of the same description being presented for sale. Buyers pick this up right away and turn to a well-graded and attractively packed product, pay more for it, and are on their way.

What’s more, a tough buyer will use the lower quality product as an excuse to try and bring down the price of the better quality product. Marketing starts with producing a quality product. Getting that right is a challenge on its own. The second step in the process is harvesting and packing, which requires hands-on supervision at all times. Careful handling, for example, starts the moment the product is harvested and requires training. A product easily bruised will do just that at the point of harvesting, even though the damage is not immediately visible.

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Trained staff
This principle applies throughout the process of sorting, grading and packing, not only in terms of careful handling, but also correct sizing, proper colour-coding and attractive packing. To achieve all these requirements means having trained, motivated staff who are well supervised. If the owner can’t be there, a good manager is required. Back on the market floor, looking at the products on offer, it’s easy to identify those farmers who aren’t heeding Paul Lynch’s advice!

Contact Mike Cordes at [email protected]. Please state ‘Market floor’ in the subject line of your email.