California Citrus Mutual is asking the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association to convince the Produce Traceability Initiative steering committee to postpone the Oct. 1 milestone.
The October 2010 PTI milestone, the fourth of seven from 2009 to 2012, calls on packers to encode Global Trade Item Numbers and lot numbers on a barcode at the case level.
In a March 5 letter to PMA and United Fresh, Joel Nelsen, president of the Exeter, Calif.-based group, said confusion over the number of GTINs required, the cost of hardware and software and the uncertainty of receiver acceptance of traceability systems justify the request.
PMA, United Fresh and the Ottawa-based Canadian Produce Marketing Association have undertaken PTI, a voluntary program, as a joint effort.
One vertically integrated California citrus shipper Nelsen has visited with thinks he needs 8,000 GTIN numbers to move a few million cartons of fruit. Another said he thinks he needs twice that. He estimates 50% of the citrus industry in California has GTIN numbers, but none have made cash outlays for hardware and software.
While he has been told by United Fresh’s Dan Vache that those GTIN number requirements seem far too high, Nelsen said the fact that major shippers are misinformed on the issue supports a postponement.
California Citrus Mutual estimates the cost of PTI implementation for the citrus industry in the state will be about $25 million. Nelsen said there are about 100 shippers in California and estimates range from $200,000 to $400,000, depending on packinghouse size. The estimate was calculated using an average of $250,000 per packinghouse, he said.
“Already, receivers are contracting with single vendors to impose their system,” the letter said. “This is not uniformity and in fact is creating another cottage industry similar to the food safety audits imposed on producers.”
Nelsen said he believes others in the industry have been emboldened by California Citrus Mutual’s leadership on the issue to express their reservations.
“There has been a lot of murmuring and sidebar conversations but nothing that was dramatically expressing concern about the proposals and the milestones for implementing it,” he said.
Tom Stenzel, president of Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh, said he has visited with Nelsen and welcomes input from the citrus industry because it helps the steering committee understand the hurdles growers and shippers face.