Due to world-wide commercialization of agricultural and food products, uniformity in grading and standardization is considered one of the main tools for marketing of commodities in the internationally accepted markets. Grading is a process of segregating a commodity into different quality depending upon the consumer's acceptance and demand. Grading of a produce should also comply with the minimum statutory requirements laid down by various enforcing government agencies. Hence, before grading of a produce it needs.
proper cleaning, processing to a stage of conformity with the required mandatory provision.
Depending upon the consumer acceptance and market demand and constituents, various parameters are laid down for grading of a commodity, which reflects the quality, and statutory requirements of that commodity after grading. The parameters fixed for grading of a commodity depends upon the nature of the article and purpose for which it is to be used. Grading of a commodity can be done at producer's level, manufacturer's level, at wholesaler's level, at retailer's level depending upon its final use, either for industrial purpose, or for indirect human consumption or for the purpose of direct human consumption. Graded produce leads to not only fetching a better price, but also open a venue to the consumer to select a product of his choice.
As the quality of agricultural produce is subject to, considerable variation on account of differences in soil, climate, type of seeds, cultivation, price, manufacturing technique, packaging, storage, etc, the importance of adopting suitable criteria for grading of a commodity is, therefore, obvious.
For assessing the quality of a produce, grading is done and for the purpose of grading, various physical or chemical parameters are laid down depending upon the commodity. Whereas, earlier concept of grading mostly relied upon the physical parameters depending upon the size and colour, foreign matter, maturity, moisture, insects infestation etc., but under the present quality concept importance is laid down on the safety parameters such as presence of Pesticide Residue, Metallic Contaminants Aflatoxin, Mycotoxins and Microbial load and hygiene. These parameters vary from commodity to commodity depending upon their utility and toxic limits. If a commodity is consumed directly for human consumption, this has to be ensured that U the food safety parameters as laid down under the mandatory provisions of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 are complied with, in addition to the other quality parameters as laid down under the Act for the commodity.
Standardization is a process of formulation of quality parameters and applying mandatory rules so far as the grading of agricultural and food commodities are concerned. Grading and Standardization are terms related to quality and the word 'quality" is being used in different connotation. 'Grading" as per definition by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is "totality of characteristic of intenty that appears of its ability to certify statutory and implied needs are usually translated into characteristic with the specified criteria. Needs may include aspects of performance, usability, dependability, safety, grading, environment, packing, storing etc. This, clearly, states that standards define quality and reliability and their successful implementation for marketing etc. Thus standardization plays a very crucial role in maintaining and improving quality, reliability and productivity.
Standardization has open doors for quality improvement to fullfil consumer satisfaction. It has, so far been taken as granted that person engaged in inspection, testing and certification should followed it as such. But this cannot be taken as granted so far as the consumer satisfaction is concerned. Therefore, it is necessary that continuous attempts are made to identify lacunae in standards in respect of processing, quality requirement, sampling procedure, method of analysis, packing, consumer needs etc.
There are various certifying agencies with regard to standards and grading. Earlier concept of certifying a product which defined as 'action of certifying by means of certificate of conformity that a product or service is in conformity with the specific standard of technical specification" cannot be constituted as final. In the new situation, it is imperative that whenever conformity certificate does not satisfy the consumers, it is necessary to bring in organizational and technical changes in the certification system so as to meet the consumer's requirement.
A number of organizations in our country are engaged in the formulation of grade standards and monitoring their quality. These can be basically classified as : (1) Mandatory and (2) Voluntary. Mandatory provisions are being implemented through a number of legislative measures.
Under the voluntary system there are two main organizations i.e. Directorate of Marketing &. Inspection through APGM Act 1937 popularly known as "Agmark" and the other is Bureau of Indian Standards through BIS Act 1986 popularly known as 'IST'. Apart from these two organizations under the present concept of self-quality assurance certification system, a number of other agencies have been authorized to certify the quality of a product.
International standards are now being recognized as means to overcome technical barriers that result in difference of various grade standards being adopted by different countries. This has lead to most national standard bodies to align their grade standards with the international standards as well as promulgation of GATT standards code, which recognizes international standards as suitable code standards for harmonizing among National Rules and Regulation. The GATT standard code has recognized International standard of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC), as suitable means of achieving necessary harmonization amongst National standards and technical standards. The increased acceptability of international standards in the world market has prompted many countries to the GATT standard codes to participate effectively in International Standardization Process, so that potential obstacles in international trade could be eliminated.
The present day view is that National standards should be aligned with International standards for giving impetus to exports. Though the developing countries have become conscious of the economic growth yet they have to identify their products fully through international standards in the world market to gain economic advantage. It is, therefore, necessary to adopt International standards as a starting point without going into costly exercise for preparation of national standards in alignment with international standards for which they often lack the necessary infrastructural facilities.
Under the present quality concept system, it is not only necessary to standardize a product, but standardization of inspection techniques, test procedures, sampling technique, packaging materials and other process are necessary for successful marketing of a product up to the satisfaction of consumer acceptability. The process of standardization has in fact to start right from the production level up to the entire processing till the product is marketed and consumed.
The mechanism of grading and standardization is a continuous process and the same needs review and changes depending upon the technological changes and requirements. But it has been observed that such process through research and developmental activities has not been given much importance in our country and in most of the cases, standards are being adopted depending upon minimum requirements without a proper scientific study.
Role of standards and certification in context of WTO agreement
International standards for quality have played an important role in both protection of health and safety of consumers and facilitation of international trade. However, with the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the signing of the non-tariff agreements, the international scenario has rapidly changed and opportunities are available to all countries to benefit from greater access to world markets. In the given scenario, the role of standards and conformity assessment has become very important in ensuring that the product is safe and of the desired quality.
However, while imposing standards and conformity assessment procedures by member countries, it is necessary that certain rules and disciplines be followed so that the standards/regulations do not act as unreasonable barriers to trade. This aspect has been taken care of through the non-tariff agreements, which basically lay down the rules and disciplines with regard to standards and conformity assessment procedures for international trade.
The aspects relating to standardization and certification of quality are specified in the following three agreements to serve its overriding purpose of helping trade flow as freely as possible.
(i) Technical barrier to Trade (TBT)
(ii) Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures (SPS Agreements)
(iii) Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI Agreement)
These Agreements basically aim at free flow of trade as possible by
adherence to international standards in respect of quality, safety management systems, laboratory testing and conformity assessment (inspection and certification) systems and mutual recognition by member countries of each other's systems. Such mutual recognition is further based on establishment of accreditation mechanisms in each country for inspection, certification or laboratory testing activities based on widely accepted international criteria (ISO 17020, ISO 17025, ISO/IEC Guide 62 for ISO 9000, ISO/IEC Guide 66 for ISO 14000).
Both SPS and TBT Agreements stipulate countries to participate in International Standardization work. The international body which has been referenced for the purpose of human health under the SPS Agreement is the CODEX ALIMENTARIUS COMMISSION. With regard to TBT work, the work of INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR STANDARDIZATION (ISO) and INTERNATIONAL ELECTROTECHNICAL COMMISSION (IEC) are important.
The SPS Agreement is especially crucial because it allows member countries to impose measures to protect health and safety of its population for which they can install import control systems in food sector. Given the premier status that Codex Standards have been assigned under the SPS Agreement, they would become practically obligatory in international trade in food sector.
The foods are expected to meet the limits prescribed under PFA / Codex / Agmark or other standards etc. The parameters to be satisfied include moisture, foreign matter, damaged or insect infested materials, uric acid, aflatoxins, poisonous metals, insecticides, rodent hair, excreta etc.
Agricultural produces are the most consumed goods a over the world. The International Food Trade is enormous and is growing fast with the ever- more rapid means of communication and transport as well as the new technologies of food preservations. Now in the trade, the provision for health, safety and requirements for various ingredients are to be primarily and essentially ensured. In this context observation of standards and their harmonized versions on product specifications, terminology, sampling, methods of tests and even certain codes of practice are unquestionably important. Under these situations, International Trade for food products particularly from developing countries like India is likely to face enormous trade hardship if one does not take note of these- aspects right now.
Much attention is now required to be paid at the primary production level of the agricultural produce. Good agricultural practices not only with respect to the applications of pesticides but also for other agrochemicals are required to be adhered to strictly. Similarly, the use of the drugs and chemicals should be minimized and to be used only when needed in desired quantity.
Our Honorable Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has already remarked about liberalization of world trade in agriculture and need of training at farmer level. These are:
"Liberalization of world trade in agriculture has opened up new vistas of growth Agriculture is one of the areas in which India has an inherent strength to dominate the global markets. As we move away from an economy of scarcity to an economy of plenty, it is now both possible and necessary for us to fix our sights on the vast opportunities in the export market. At the same time, our country also stands exposed to price fluctuations in the world markets. India can avoid the pitfalls and seize the prospects of freer global trade in agriculture only if we treat this as a national mission... Let us fully mobilize the vast pool of our peoples' traditional knowledge, just as we harness the latest advance in technology. Let us together resolve to make India a leading agricultural power in the world in the 21st Century"
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India
"For instance, I often wonder why there are so few facilities even for our most progressive farmers, who otherwise might have very little exposure to the formal educational system, to improve their theoretical and practical knowledge. If business executives and professionals can have short term retraining courses specially designed for them, why not for our knowledge-hungry farmers? Lack of formalized agricultural education to practicing farmers is, in my view, the weakest link in our farm strategy. There seems to be a well-entrenched misconception that a farmer needs no formal education in farm management. We must rectify this lacuna urgently to enrich the human resource in Indian agriculture".
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India
In view of the above the National Institute of Agriculture Marketing, Jaipur, a premier institution in training and agricultural marketing have already initiated organizing workshops and training-cum-awareness programmes for progressive farmers, trainers and other people engaged in agriculture marketing. The present workshop is an effort in this direction.