Agricultural produce particularly fruits and vegetables form an important part of trade both nationally and internationally. Among the post-harvest operations applied during handling of fruits and vegetables, grading plays an important role to remove undesirable or foreign matters from the harvested crops into various fractions. Grading is sorting or categorisation of fruits and vegetables into different grades according to the size, shape, colour, and volume to fetch high price in market. Besides grading, the other post-harvest operations such as precooling of produce to remove field heat, post-harvest treatments and packaging etc are also critical to marketing success.
Produce brought in many markets often has variable characteristics and sometimes it may be delivered immature or contain shrivelled, damaged and rotten materials. Delivering such produce generally results in lower prices. Thus, systematic grading is pre-requisite for efficient marketing of fruits and vegetables. The bruised, damaged and mis-shapen produce should be sorted out and healthy fruits or vegetables should be graded according to their size, weight, shape, colour, maturity etc. The fruits or vegetables can be graded in extra fancy, superior and standard grades or class I, II and III, respectively. Various advantages of grading are outlined below:
Advantages of Grading
- The graded produce fetch better price in the market.
- Grading helps to develop greater confidence between buyers and growers.
- Increase the marketing efficiency by facilitating buying and selling a produce without personal selection.
- Heavy marketing cost in packing and transportation can be avoided by grading.
- Increasing distributors’ profits.
- Increasing producers’ profits.
- Grading improves product uniformity within a particular grade and serves as the basis for price.
Methods of Grading
Grading of fruits and vegetables is generally done on the basis of physical characteristics like weight, size, colour, shape, specific gravity, and freedom from diseases. For fresh marketing, the known methods of grading of fruits and vegetables are manual grading, or machine grading. In both the methods, the produce is graded on the basis of size. However, electronic grading systems are gaining impetus in the horticultural sector and have been used successfully in pilot scale studies. Grading process is fully mechanised but in India it is still done manually. Basic process behind mechanical grading consist of a conveyor belt with a bag at the end wherein smaller produce fall through the chain making grading process less extensive. Fruits and vegetables are generally graded on the basis of state, federal, and international standards. Every country has set their own standards of different grades as per the market requirements. However, for international market three general grades are considered as: Extra class, Class I and Class II.
Extra Class: The extra class is of superior quality poses the shapes and colour of the variety and without internal defect likely to affect the inherent texture and flavour. A 5 per cent tolerance is allowed for errors. It must be carefully presented taking into accounts the uniformity of the produces in size, colour, and condition arrangement of the produce in the package, quality and appearances of the packing or pre-packing material.
Class I: Almost having a same quality is like the Extra Class except that a 10% tolerance is allowed. Individual fruit is allowed a slight defect in shape, colour and minor skin defect which do not affect the general appearance for keeping qualities.
Class II: This class product may exhibit some external or internal defects provided they are fit for consumption while fresh. This class is the best fitted for local or short distance market. This category will satisfy the needs of customers who are not too demanding and for whom price is more important than quality.
Grades of different fruits & vegetables as suggested by Directorate of Marketing and Inspection (DMI)
Directorate of Marketing and Inspection (DMI) under Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India was set up in the year 1935 to frame the grade standards in a scientific manner. The different grades used in some important fruits and vegetables with respect to weight, diameter or length as applicable are given as under. For grading information on other fruits and vegetables, following site i.e. www.dmi.gov.in can be accessed.
Manually grading is costly and grading operation is affected due to shortage of labour in peak seasons. Human operations may be inconsistent, less efficient and time consuming. New trends in marketing as specified by World Trade Organisation (WTO) demand high quality graded products. Farmers are looking forward to having an appropriate agricultural produce-grading machine in order to alleviate the labour shortage, save time and improve graded product’s quality. Grading of fruits is a very important operation as it fetches high price to the grower and improves packaging, handling and brings an overall improvement in marketing system. The fruits are generally graded on basis of size and graded fruits are more welcome in export market. Grading could reduce handling losses during transportation.