Reports

Introduction to Traceability in melons

The ability to trace fruit one-step-forward and one-step-backward is currently the minimum requirement in the supply chain. With the increasing complexities in the supply chain and international trade, the current requirements are not adequate to address consumers’ curiosity to know more about the farming history and journey of fruit. Regulatory authorities also need quick access to complete information on the product origin and its distribution during food safety failures to minimise damage to the public health and trade. That is why there is a global push to adopt end-to-end digital traceability of food products.

Melons Australia, in partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), has received funding from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for a traceability project. The project aims to improve the traceability systems in the melon industry, enhance export competitiveness and promote brand Australia.

Background
Melons Australia has been proactive in managing food safety and traceability issues that could become counter-productive to their growth and profitability in domestic and export markets. Adopting digital traceability in the melon supply chain will further ensure the industry continues to be a global leader with a world-class traceability system. This will help capture and increase our share in the premium markets with safe, high quality and traceable fruit.

Benefits of a traceability system in the melon industry
There are several benefits of adopting a robust traceability system for the melon industry. Commercial benefits of enhanced traceability exceed the requirements from regulatory and consumer perspectives. The adoption of digital traceability generates data that is useful for:

  • supply chain management
  • rapid product recalls
  • food fraud prevention
  • meeting consumer expectations.

A digital system further allows:

  • a reliable track and trace of fruit within a short period beyond farmgate to undertake trade or consumer level recalls, if necessary, without negatively affecting the whole category and the industry.
  • brand identification and promotion
  • product authenticity and provenance advantage
  • supply chain management and consumer feedback
  • farm biosecurity and property identification.

Melon traceability system essentials
A robust system, with internal and external traceability capacities, should be followed to manage food safety risks and brand protection. The internal traceability systems should identify and record the sources of seed/seedling, chemicals and fertilisers, agronomic and plant protection practices, microbiological testing, and postharvest practices. The external traceability system should trace and track the melons beyond farmgate until it reaches the consumer.

Melon Traceability Project overview
To accelerate the adoption of digital traceability in the melon supply chains, the project will:

  • evaluate a range of technological solutions available in the Australian market for their suitability and adoption by melon growers, packers and traders
  • conduct pilot trials for the evaluation of various technological solutions to assess their suitability and resolve practical issues facing the adoption of digital traceability
  • promote the labelling of individual melon fruits for physical identification and brand promotion
  • provide the melon industry with a best practice on traceability to ensure the industry supports the national traceability framework and exceeds the requirements of trading partners and consumers
  • enhance the growers’ awareness on digital traceability adoption.