How Using Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) in a Food Business Can Improve Bottomline
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
Senegal is experiencing extraordinary growth in the food sector. New small and medium-sized companies appear regularly, attracting ever more financing, and more and more of them are beginning to think seriously about the quality of their product. This is driven by increasing consumer demands, many of whom are willing to pay a premium for higher-quality foods.
To help these food companies realize their full market potential, FES has been advising them on how to improve the quality of their products and optimize their supply chain to maximize revenues more efficiently. And, of course, earn a larger market share from better-paying customers.
There are many aspects to earning a higher premium while improving food quality. We have addressed various aspects of attracting more investments by focusing more carefully on food quality in other articles of our “Safer Food Technologies” series.
One such practice is integrating Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) into the entire supply chain: from production to packaging.
For example, on a recent visit to a small juice-making company in Dakar, I observed how private food companies put our advice into practice. My interest was to build a network of vibrant, profitable food companies in Senegal and thus expand our food safety and supply chain consulting practice in West Africa. Swapping ideas with successful local business owners is always a great place to start building this network.
The business owner was proud of her neatly bottled collection of hibiscus flower, orange, and baobab fruit infusions. She exuded that business confidence that allowed her to feel well at home in the fast-paced dynamic of the up-and-coming food sector in Senegal. She looked and talked like a business success.
So, my host and I discussed a few practical methods to permanently improve food quality. I asked her how she reads market signals and what her business acumen tells her to do to compete in the market?
She said that to be able to beat other, more traditional Senegalese juice companies, new actors need to commit to almost obsessive attention to the consistency and excellence of the final product. And this excellence needs to be upheld throughout the supply chain, beginning at the farm.
Ensuring food quality and good market access starts at the farm.
Our professional advice is that the first step for a growing food business like hers to ensure that her product is the best possible quality is to require that her suppliers control what they do at their farms. She agreed: if she has a close enough relationship with farmers, she can point them in the right direction. Finding these product suppliers and maintaining a good business relationship with them is key to her strategy and success.
After all, their businesses benefit long-term from happier and healthier customers downstream.
FES agrees. That is why we work with our clients helping them promote Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPs, among their suppliers in the farming community.
Below, I will share some other cost-effective GAPs we have documented and helped our business clients disseminate.
Harvesting technologies and practices
Foods harvested properly and in a way that maintains their freshness and reduces damage have a greater chance of reaching customers in good condition. This is particularly true for fruits and vegetables. For example, using nets for harvesting is a technique that reduces damage and prevents biological/zoonotic contamination that might be introduced by birds or other pests.
Introducing new technologies can also help farmers improve their harvesting efficiency for other crops. For example, nut-gathering rolling devices are simple and affordable. Nut-gathering roller machines have flexible wire loops that help pick nuts when they fall from the plant. It is an innovative technology that helps reduce physical hazards and doesn’t damage nuts. These hand-operated little machines will help you forget about hand-picking your crop while bending in the sun all day.
Sorting and grading technologies and practices
After harvesting, farmers should sort and remove any damaged or defective products. These defects are introduced by birds, insects, or human activities. By sorting, defects are eliminated at the source, and food businesses will not have to do as much work following their produce purchase.
While sorting produce, suppliers can start separating their crops into categories based on shape, size, weight, image, and color. Sorting by size can be done easily by using sieves or screens with apertures of different sizes.
Next, the produce should be checked for damage and various defects. There is no need to discard produce not having all the characteristics that fit an ideal product: there are markets for all kinds of produce, and perhaps a food business can help its suppliers to find those markets.
Pest control technologies and practices
Pest control is a wide-ranging topic essential to maintaining superior quality of the end products. Here, we will point to some affordable technologies for keeping those pesky insects away. Suppliers can use them inside storage units.
Flying insects glue boards: This technology uses UV light tubes to lure flying insects and get them trapped by a sticky adhesive. The insects are attached and restrained upon contact with the adhesive surface (glue board). It is advantageous because restrained insects remain in the unit and are easily collected for disposal.
Cordless rechargeable electric device or flying insects: It may look like an innocent tennis racket. But this handheld gadget packs enough electric power to kill mosquitos and houseflies that commonly contaminate products. This gadget offers rapid action by striking down insects with an electric current upon pressing the button.
Glue traps: Glue traps with adhesives can trap insects and rodents on farms. An important benefit of using glue traps is that, while being very cheap, they can be left inside a storage unit so that a farmer can spend their productive time elsewhere on tasks other than chasing flies around.
Insect growth regulator-based pesticides: Hormone-induced insecticides can be used to help in pest control on farms. They are non-toxic and not harmful to humans. Insect Growth Regulators (IGR), control the mating process and prevent pests from reaching maturity, making them infertile.
Easy solutions with recycled materials
Reusing, recycling, and sterilizing containers by planting vegetables is an innovation requiring low capital and little infrastructure. This is particularly useful in settings with dense populations and limited space for agriculture, but innovative rural farmers can do so too.
Routinely, we partner with food businesses in West Africa to help them modernize and improve the quality of their products, directly affecting their bottom line. Encouraging suppliers to use good agricultural practices is a sure first step that food businesses can take on that journey.