PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Kobus Hartman and Sarah le Grange
CONTACT DETAILS: Capespan Exports (Pty) Ltd
DURATION: Three years
LEAD INSTITUTION: Capespan Exports (Pty) Ltd
BENEFICIARY: All fruit sectors

Every country that exports fruit has to comply with the necessary food safety and other export requirements. These standards and requirements have changed continuously over the past decade, particularly those set by fruit importing markets in the UK and Europe. It is expected of producers to provide assurance of good agricultural and environmental practices, ethical trading and responsible energy usage. Importing countries are also constantly revising agrochemical registration requirements and maximum residue limits. Furthermore, overseas supermarkets have differentiated themselves by setting standards additional to GLOBALGAP.

An Integrated Crop Management Assessment System

About a decade ago, a leading South African fruit export company, Capespan Exports (Pty) Ltd, initiated and financed the development of an electronic assessment tool: the Integrated Crop Management Assessment System (ICMAS). The purpose of ICMAS was to assist farmers with compliance to international food safety and social accountability standards and to eliminate the duplication of export standards.

The system enabled producers to evaluate their compliance to multiple standards by completing a single questionnaire. The questionnaire and guidelines were available in English and Afrikaans to facilitate the interpretation of often Eurocentric standards. Furthermore, the software assisted growers in drawing up corrective action plans in cases where non-compliances had been identified during the completion of the checklist.

The concept proved sound and in 2007, Capespan Exports commissioned the redevelopment of the ICMAS software to keep abreast of the continuous technological development worldwide. The project was partially funded by the Post-Harvest Innovation Programme.

Kobus Hartman and Sarah le Grange led the Capespan team, which established ICMAS as an off-line electronic tool and developed the accompanying ABSi (AgriBusiness Systems international) website to provide access to the ICMAS software and reporting tools.

  • Users of the ABSi website, including growers, packers, exporters, importers and retailers, can access information on, amongst others, the maximum residue levels and pre-harvest intervals required for all fruit crops, as well as spray records, residue analyses and certificates that have been uploaded by growers and packers to indicate their compliance with market and legal requirements.

Outcome of study

  • ICMAS served an important purpose at the time. It provided South African producers with information on all the existing standards and requirements in a single, consolidated system.
  • However, the production environment and international retail arena has since matured. Producers have become more selective about the markets they supply and now generally tend to comply with the common denominator, namely GLOBALGAP.
  • Retailers in the UK and Europe came to realise that enforcing their own standards are not really necessary – it creates duplication and the differential did not make a significant difference. Besides, these are Eurocentric standards and not entirely applicable to countries like South Africa.
  • Though the initial need for a single assessment system has diminished since the inception of ICMAS more than ten years ago, ICMAS has nonetheless served an important purpose in assisting growers – not only by enabling them to comply with international standards, but also by fostering their confidence in their ability to meet international demands.
  • The ICMAS software has subsequently been transferred to an independent service provider who will be investigating relevant uses for it.