Best practices for quality control in agriculture
Developing and maintaining well-defined quality control processes in agriculture are critical actions to ensure the farmer’s competitiveness in the market. Such a strategy withstands the commercial devaluation of products, guarantees higher quality of work for employees, lower operating costs and greater satisfaction for the end consumer.
But what is quality control in agriculture? When a user evaluates a product, they look at several factors, especially appearance, taste and the production process. These aspects are within the farmer’s control, and also determine the purchase’s cost-benefit.
Therefore, equivalent products may have different pricing. So, how can you do quality control in agriculture from the production start until the delivery to the supplier? That’s what we will explain in this article. Check it out!
Why do quality control in agriculture?
Quality control in agriculture can guarantee healthier food, more sustainable cultivation practices and a set of other actions that add value to the marketed product, which helps farmers to gain their space in the market.
Food safety is one of the major consumer concerns today and it is a result of quality control in agriculture. On the one hand, this is evident with the increase in public interest into the means of production. Topics such as hygiene practices, methods and cultivation, pesticide application and biotechnology have become increasingly discussed. Such interest revolves around how these aspects can affect consumer health.
In the midst of this trend, governments are under pressure to implement measures that ensure appropriate food handling through stricter legislation that rules the use of physical, chemical and microbiological agents. For this reason, several public agencies are involved in the food quality verification process.
In Brazil, food production undergoes an intense evaluation and control process carried out by different sectors and specialists, such as agronomists and veterinarians. In the public sector, we can highlight the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) and the Health Surveillance and the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa).
The Ministry of Agriculture promotes policies to encourage agriculture and agribusiness. One of its responsibilities is to guarantee food safety for Brazilians and for exported products. In general, inspection takes place in industries of plant or animal origin.
Anvisa is an autarchy that promotes the health of the population through sanitary control of services and products provided by Brazilian and foreign companies. Inspectors visit the production and sale sites to analyze the environment conditions, processes, technologies and inputs used.
Health surveillance works at the state and municipal levels. In the field of food products, the teams inspect raw materials, processes, utensils and packaging. In any case, the enterprise that is analyzed and rejected for exposing the consumer to some food risk may have be forced to shut down.
Therefore, ensuring the best quality control practices in agriculture is more than a matter of competitive advantage. It is a concern for public health, ethics and respect for the environment. So, it is important to consider the related best practices.
What are the best practices in quality control in agriculture?
In quality control, we can highlight the best strategies based on the production stage or focus.
- prepare the soil by adopting management techniques consistent with the climate and soil characteristics, and according to the guidelines of the responsible agronomist;
- use fertilizers registered with MAPA, according to technical recommendations;
- perform a chemical and physical analysis of the soil to apply proper fertilization.
To control diseases and pests:
- prioritize Integrated Pest Management (IPM);
- use pesticides registered for the crop;
- seek alternative control methods to eliminate invasive plants, seeking the least possible damage to the environment and employee health;
- take care that pesticides are stored according to the specifications of its agronomic recipe, following the recommendations on the packaging label.
In harvest operations:
- always adopt the best practices to prevent fungi proliferation and other biological, physical or chemical agents that can contaminate food;
- always carry out the harvest when the plant reaches ideal maturity;
- take the crop’s specificities into account to preserve its quality and reduce losses;
- adopt pre-cleaning methods during and after harvest.
Packaging and logistics
When packing and transporting products:
- research and implement traceability systems to record the production origin and other pertinent details, such as supplier, producing region, technical and harvest data;
- use the appropriate packaging and vehicles for transport for each type of crop;
- reduce the transport time between the farm and the processing site as much as possible;
- guarantee the ideal humidity and temperature conditions throughout the logistic process;
- place packaged products on pallets away from walls and ceilings to ensure air circulation and facilitate access to control pests.
Even after the products are industrialized, you should not neglect care for it. That is how to:
- ensure proper packaging and containers hygiene and sterilization;
- keep track of product traceability after industrialization.
How to implement a quality management system?
For implementing a system for quality control in agriculture, it is important that the farmer selects a person to be responsible for the process, from planning to evaluation. That person will schedule the work, promoting goals, training and maintenance schedules.
It is important to adopt tools and indicators that help you measure process performance as well as identify the failures and problems that cause them. Such an assessment must cover all stages of the production cycle, such as the purchase of inputs, fertilization, planting, spraying, harvesting and the distribution chain.
All processes must be evaluated to consider the ways to reduce costs and waste and increase the quality of products delivered to the consumer.
Therefore, we have reached a stage of agricultural production where it is not enough to produce a lot. With the best quality control in agriculture, you will be able to deliver good items that guarantee not only food safety, but also consumer satisfaction.
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