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Apply knowledge to produce high quality products

July 2015

The business of farming is to produce products that people need at a profit by combining and converting the four production factors, namely land, capital, labour and management into useful products such as food and/or fibre.

Remember throughout our series of articles on management one of the principles we have emphasised is that everything and everybody involved with the farming, be it the owner/manager or employees, does or do not do when necessary, affects the profit/loss of the business.

Quality is defined as the degree of excellence of something as measured against other similar things. In terms of agricultural products quality refers basically to the external appearance of a product – does it look nice, good, fresh, healthy and attractive? Internally, is it healthy, have a good nutritional value and does it taste good? At the moment products are mainly judged on their appearance – outside. However, due to the developing of modern technology it is becoming more and more possible to also measure the internal qualities of products such as sweetness, tenderness, sugar contents, and so forth.

Quality of products are affected by a number factors such as climate, the soil, method of production, harvesting, packing and transport. The effects of climate is the most difficult to manage. However, the production process is manageable. For example: How effective is your weed control? Control of pests and diseases? Harvesting process? Marketing process? In other words is everything that needs to be done carried out timeously and correctly to produce and deliver a quality product?

Naturally the question will be asked – “How do I produce quality products?” The answer begins with knowledge.

First of all you must know your farm and resources. What types of soils are there on my farm? What is the nutritional status of the soils? How much and what water is available? Is the water suitable for crop production? Or is my farm basically a dry land farm? What is the rainfall and distribution of the rainfall on average over the long term? The physical resources are a major determinant of the product/s to be produced on a farm and also of the quality thereof.

Secondly, you must acquire as much as possible knowledge regarding the product/s you produce – from preparing the seedbed up to harvesting, marketing and value-adding possibilities. Visit farmer's days, attend courses, get help from a mentor, and so forth. Please remember this is a lifelong process. We are in an ever-changing, progressing and vibrant industry and you must keep abreast of the latest developments – a farmer is a student for life.

You also need to acquire the necessary skills to produce the product/s. Skills to prepare the seedbed properly, set the planter, to use and adjust equipment, to harvest the product, to pack and transport and deliver the product.

You will also need proper equipment which can be a major problem because of the capital that might be involved. But remember: “’n Boer maak ‘n plan.”

With that said, everything however adds up to the fact that you, as a farmer, must do what you must do at the right time and in the right way. If you neglect any aspect it will affect the quality of the product/s you produce and therefore the profit/loss of your business.

There are a couple of ways to market your product/s – farm-gate sales, local area sales, factory contracts, fresh produce markets, direct sales (such as delivering to a supermarket), value-adding and export. The market requires quality products and higher quality products achieve better prices.

The market is a tough guy. He does not ask where the products come from. He wants quality products to supply to his clients/consumers. If you supply him with quality products he will respond with better prices. Keep in mind that this market guy is getting tougher by the day because of pressure from consumers regarding environmentally friendly and healthier production processes. As a result, traceability is a reality – where does the product come from and how is it produced – is it full of chemicals? Already some products can be traced back to the farmer and delivering poor products will be penalised.

A last thought, it is of the utmost importance to visit the market place regularly to take note of what is happening (do they handle your product with care?), observe what other farmers are doing, learn from the market and go back to apply these lessons. There is no better place to learn about transport, market access, grading, packaging, sizing, presentation and above all quality.

In conclusion, there is no better inspector of quality than the buyer in the marketplace. To be successful you have to produce quality products.

Article submitted by Marius Greyling, Pula Imvula contributor.
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Publication: July 2015

Section: Pula/Imvula