About one-third of California’s avocado acreage has been certified to be in compliance with U.S. Department of Agriculture good agricultural practices, thanks to a little help from the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.
Now in its third year, the commission’s rebate program offers growers up to $300 toward the cost of GAP certification.
Growers received $100,000 worth of rebates during the first two years of the program, said Ken Melban, the commission’s director of issues management.
So far, the rebate only has been good for first-time audits. But starting May 1, growers may apply for a rebate for recertification, as well.
Producers have signed up for the program voluntarily, Melban said.
“That speaks volume about the commitment of our growers.”
It may not be long before food safety requirements become even more stringent, with retailers requiring good agricultural practices, said Dave Fausset, national sales manager for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
Some retailers already request GlobalG.A.P.-certified pro-duct, he said. And he said that within three to five years, that could be the industry standard.
“We’ve been really pushing (growers) to at least become GAP-certified,” Fausset said.
The biggest challenge is for small growers, some of whom grow avocados as a side job, he said. For them, the cost of certification becomes a bigger deal.
Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif., is upgrading its packinghouse to comply with a Primus Global Food Safety Initiative audit, said Dana Thomas, president.
“(Food safety) is of utmost importance,” he said.
The company also has a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program in place and has been working with its growers for more than five years on a GAP certification program.
Almost half of the company’s volume now is GAP certified, Thomas said.
“We want to continue to add on to that every year,” he said.
More than 75% of the volume from Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., is GAP certified, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing. Growers get recertified annually.
“We’re proud of our growers, who have stepped up and been leaders in getting their groves certified,” he said.
“They believe GAP is the long-term key to a good, sustainable profit flow from retailers.”
At Giumarra, “Food safety has become an increasingly important part of what we do,” said Bruce Dowhan, vice president of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos. and general manager of Giumarra Agricom International LLC, Escondido, Calif.