Program helps avocado handlers implement GAPs

03/14/2012 11:44:00 AM
Tom Burfield

A growing number of California avocado grower-shippers are certified or are in the process of being certified for good agricultural practices.

The Irvine-based California Avocado Commission launched a program to help growers complete a GAP inspection about a year ago, and growers started achieving certified status late last year.

Gaining more acreage

All of the major handlers have bought into the program, and by early February, up to 15% of the state’s avocado acreage had been certified, said Ken Melban, the commission’s director of issues management.

The commission has not set a specific acreage goal, but Melban said the organization would like to see “a sizable amount of acreage” certified by the end of year.

“We’re very pleased with how the industry is tracking on it,” he said.

Consumers, retailers and the federal government are driving the process, he said. The commission is not mandating the inspection.

The commission has developed a policy and procedures manual to help handlers become GAP certified, he said.

The program focuses on key areas to mitigate and reduce potential bacterial contamination, including human contact, animals, soil and inputs, such as water.

The commission believes so strongly in the value of the GAP certification that it has set aside funds to reimburse participating growers up to $300 toward the cost of the audit.

Minimal modifications

Escondido, Calif.-based Giumarra Agricom International LLC has signed onto the program, said Jose Tostado, director of field operations.

The company only had to make a few modifications to its procedures to comply with the GAP program.

“It wasn’t something drastic — that really was very different from what we were doing,” Tostado said.

Much of the process consisted of ensuring that documentation is on file, he said.

“It’s another expense,” he said, but it could be worthwhile down the road as more buyers demand that their suppliers implement good agricultural practices, he said.

Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. in Fallbrook, Calif., is making sure it complies with good agricultural practices as it completes a remodeling program, said partner Bob Lucy.

The company’s packinghouse and its growers are abiding by the GAPs, he said.

The firm has hired Gerardo Huerta to help its growers ensure that they are in compliance.

The process doesn’t require jumping though a lot of hoops, Lucy said, “just diligently keeping track of records.”

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