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Packaging and grading of vegetables

spinach informal marketing swiss chard south africa

Vegetables are sold in various from of packaging depending on the quality and quantity of the product and the price the farmer would like to obtain.  The trend is to pack high quality vegetables into smaller quantities i.e. smaller packaging and lower quality vegetables in to larger containers or sell them in bulk.  Thus the packaging material and quality (grading) often go hand in hand.  It is important to understand the grading process  of vegetables.  Some vegetables do not have a grading such as beans, while tomatoes, onions and potatoes are the only vegetables that are graded.  It is obvious that a grade 1 tomato should obtain a higher price that a grade 2 or 3 tomato.  In the case of beans or other vegetables that are not classified into grades the price is determined by the perception of the buyer what quality or “grade” the beans are.

Each of the three vegetables that are officially classified at the market by market officials have various types of grades as can be seen in the first table. Each of these grades can be packed into any of the packages listed in the second table.

Classification of onions, potatoes and tomatoes on the Pretoria National Fresh Produce Market
Best gradeClass 1 LargeClass 1 LargeClass 1
Class 1 MediumClass 1 Medium
Class 1 Size RClass 1 Small
Class 1 SmallClass 1 Ex Small
High gradeClass 2 LargeClass 2 LargeClass 2
Class 2 MediumClass 2 Medium
Class 2 Size RClass 2 Small
Class 2 Small
Medium gradeClass 3 LargeClass 3 LargeClass 3
Class 3 MediumClass 3 Medium
Class 3 Size R
Class 3 Small
Lowest gradeClass 4 (all sizes)Class 4
No gradingUnclassified
Packaging used for onions, potatoes and tomatoes at the Pretoria National Fresh Produce Market
Banana boxPunnetsBox
BoxPaper pocketJumble pack
BundleFive pocketSingle layer
GreenQuarter packTomato box
PickledThree pocketTray
PocketsQuattro cartonWire box
Small pocketsSugar pocketPunnet
Three pocketsFive pocketCarton

Other vegetables often use the same type of packaging. It is important to note that for a specific packaging type and for a specific crop or vegetable type, the weight in that packaging must always be specified and must always be the same. For instance, tomatoes packed in a tomato box must specify whether it is a 6.5kg tomato box or a 10.5kg tomato box. Beans sold in banana boxes are always 22kg, but tomatoes are usually not sold in banana boxes since it would be to heavy to transport. Depending on demand, some vegetables are sold with a variety of packaging in order to suit the demands of customers. The various packaging material used for four vegetables are listed in the table below.

Packaging material with weight of produce, in brackets, of four vegetables sold on the Pretoria National Fresh Produce Market.
Pocket (10kg)Banana box (22kg)Box (10kg)Punnet (1kg)
Banana box (22kg)Bundle (2kg)Pocket (10kg)Sugar pocket (26kg)
Box (10kg)Crate (70kg)Pre-pack (10kg)
Carton (5kg)Economy pack (5kg)Crate (35kg)
Pocket (6kg)Pocket (10kg)Banana box (21kg)
Tomato box (5kg)Sugar pocket (22kg)Carton (10kg)
Double tray (7kg)
Small pocket (5kg)
Punnet (2kg)
Paper bag (0.5kg)

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