Not worth a fig?

OECD Observer

What have “bursa siyahi” and “sarilop” got in common? They are both varieties of figs. If you enjoy fresh figs in the summer or puddings in the winter, you may be interested to know that there were more than 300 fresh fig varieties growing on earth. The biggest producers are Turkey and Egypt.

How can anyone ensure that the fruit they just bought is neither rotten nor unripe? How can producers know whether their crop will be sold as Extra, Class I or Class II? And how can importers ensure that their merchandise is in impeccable condition? Standards play a pivotal role: besides facilitating farmers’, exporters’ and traders’ work, they offer traceability, to the great comfort of consumers.

Since it set up its Scheme for the Application of International Standards for Fruit and Vegetables in 1962, the OECD is the main worldwide reference for the certification of fruit and vegetables, as well as for the standardisation of seeds, agricultural and forestry tractors, and forest reproductive material.

The OECD regularly publishes brochures comprising explanatory notes, colour gauges and detailed pictures explaining what is and what is not allowed not just for figs but for mushrooms, melons and pomegranates, among others–more than 25 vegetables and fruits in total–sold among the 25 countries who have signed on to the programme.

As for fresh figs: not only must they be intact, “sound”, clean, fresh, and practically free from pests and abnormal external moisture, but their minimum diameter’s size must be 40mm. Even the packaging is regulated. Only fresh figs of superior quality are awarded an “Extra” class. The standardisation does not intend to judge figs’ flavour, even if fresh figs stored or transported under poor conditions shall be free of strange smell and taste, the brochure specifies. And the brochure does allow readers to enjoy the mouth-watering pictures of the most traded fresh fig varieties.

OECD (2015), Fresh Figs, International Standards for Fruit and Vegetables, OECD Publishing.


©OECD Observer No 303, September 2015

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