Agmark Formulation, Grading, Certification, Infrastructure and Roles

Table of Contents:-

  • AGMARK [AP (G&M) ACT, 1937]
  • Standardization and Grading of Agricultural Commodities
  • Formulation of Grade Standards
  • Grading and Certification of Agricultural Commodities
  • Grading and Certification for Internal Trade
  • Grading and Certification for Exports
  • Infrastructure for Certification Programs
  • Role of Central Agmark Laboratory (CAL) and Regional Agmark Laboratories (RALs)
  • AGMARK Standards and the PFA Act

AGMARK [AP (G&M) ACT, 1937]

Several Acts and Orders are enforced in India to protect consumers against adulteration and unfair practices. The origin of quality control in India can be traced back to the implementation of the Agricultural Produce (Grading & Marking) Act, 1937 commonly referred to as the AP(G&M) Act, 1937.

The Agricultural Produce (Grading & Marking) Act of 1937 provides for the grading and marking of agricultural and other produce. This Act empowers the Central Government to make rules for:

(a) Revising grade designations to indicate the quality of any scheduled item accurately,

(b) Defining the quality stated by every grade designation and

(c) Specifying grade designation marks to represent a particular grade designation.

According to the provision in Section 3 of the Act, the General Grading and Marking Rules, 1988, are notified, which detail procedures for the grant of Certificate of Authorization, establishment of laboratories, issuance of Certificate of Agmark Grading, action on irregularities, consumer protection measures, etc. Currently, 105 specific Commodity Grading & Marking Rules cover 197 commodities. These rules provide a complete guide that includes information on commodity-specific requirements related to packaging, hygienic aspects, labelling, and grade standards based on quality parameters.

AGMARK Standards and Implementation Overview

Grade standards notified under the provisions of the Act are commonly referred to as AGMARK Standards. These standards differentiate between quality, with 2-3 grades prescribed for each commodity. Different grades are determined based on the intrinsic quality of agricultural commodities and various other parameters related to cleanliness, extraneous matter, active components, etc.

Grades assist farmers/traders in obtaining prices of farming commodities commensurate with the quality they produce, while consumers receive the desired quality of produce. To date, grade standards for 197 agricultural commodities have been notified, including cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables, creamery butter & ghee, vegetable oils, spices, honey, wheat atta, besan, etc. The list of commodities for which grade standards are prescribed along with their details can be found on the Agmark website.

The Directorate of Marketing & Inspection (DMI) in the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, is responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act.

Standardization and Grading of Agricultural Commodities

Grading describes the quality of the consignment and assists in forming legally binding agreements. It enables proper marketing of agricultural commodities and ensures their smooth movement through the market without obstruction. This also enables transactions without the need for physical verification by distant buyers.

Advantages of Grading include:

  1. Ensuring price stability.
  2. Resolving market disputes amicably.
  3. Contributing to the improvement of crops.
  4. Aiding in the implementation of contract farming.
  5. Building confidence between buyers and sellers.
  6. Facilitating interstate and international marketing.
  7. Eliminating arbitrary price fixation by intermediaries.
  8. Reducing risks for producers and sellers in transactions.
  9. Facilitating future marketing as grades become a commercial measure of quality.
  10. Allowing farmers to quickly obtain loans from banks based on the grades of produce stored in the godown.

Formulation of Grade Standards

Framing standards for agricultural commodities is complex due to the variety of commodities grown in diverse agro-climatic conditions. This results in significant variations in physical and chemical parameters. Agricultural commodity standards are established through a scientific approach involving the following steps:

(i) Selection of the agricultural commodity for which grade standards are to be framed is based on national priorities, necessity, and demand.

(ii) Preparation of a sampling plan based on the areas where the commodity is grown, processed, and traded.

(iii) Identification of physical and chemical parameters to determine the purity and quality of the commodity.

(iv) Collecting samples from growing areas, wholesale, and retail markets by field offices according to the sampling plan.

(v) Analysis of the samples in the Central Agmark Laboratory(CAL) and Regional Agmark Laboratories(RAL) for the identified parameters.

(vi) Statistical analysis of the analytical data, with the Central Agmark Laboratory suggesting limits for various quality parameters for different grades.

(vii) Consultations for specifications for the commodity prescribed in the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955, and international standards such as Codex Alimentarius Commission, ISO, etc.

(viii) Discussion of the draft standards with trade, industry, and consumer organizations by the relevant Committee on Agmark standards.

(ix) Drafting of Preliminary Marking and Grading Rules for the commodity, reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Justice and Law. These rules are thoughtfully translated into Hindi and published in the Gazette of India to invite comments and suggestions from all stakeholders.

(x) Consideration of received comments/suggestions, followed by drafting the final notification, which the Ministry of Law & Justice again vets, translated into Hindi and published in the Gazette of India.

The following commodities are covered under Agmark standards:

  1. Food grains and Allied Products.
  2. Oilseeds, Vegetable Oils & Dairy Products.
  3. Essential Oils.
  4. Spices and Condiments.
  5. Fruits and Vegetables.
  6. Other Commodities.

Grading and Certification of Agricultural Commodities

The grading activities aim to benefit farmers and consumers while aiding traders in efficiently moving produce from producers to consumers. Promoting the standardization and grading of agricultural and allied produce is a fundamental responsibility undertaken by the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection.

The Directorate is responsible for promoting grading, implementation and standardization of certification schemes for agricultural and allied products. It facilitates orderly marketing under the provisions of the Agricultural Produce (Grading & Marking) Act, 1937, as amended in 1986. Grading is conducted by the notified standards, established practices, procedures, and instructions issued under the Act and Rules.

Grading serves as a means of describing the quality of commodities purchased or sold by buyers or sellers nationwide and abroad. This helps establish a common trade language and reduces the need for physical checking and handling at various points. The system of grading and certification benefits both sellers and buyers, as producers receive prices commensurate with the quality of their produce, while consumers receive quality products for their money.

Grading and certification activities can be broadly classified into:

(i) Grading and Certification for Internal Trade
(ii) Grading and Certification for Exports

Grading and Certification for Internal Trade

The scheme for certification of agricultural commodities is voluntary, except for blended edible vegetable oils and fat spread. Certification under AGMARK is mandatory for these commodities as per the provisions in the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. Parties desiring to certify an agricultural commodity under Agmark should maintain high standards of hygiene.

They must have the necessary infrastructure to process and package the commodity. Furthermore, access to a well-equipped laboratory for estimating prescribed parameters. To meet these requirements, parties have two different options. They can either establish their laboratory or be affiliated with a Commercial Laboratory or State Grading Laboratory that has been approved by the DMI for grading and marking commodities.

AGMARK Certification Process for Agricultural Commodities

More than one thousand approved laboratories are in the country for grading and marking. The laboratory chemist has undergone extensive training at one of the Regional Agmark Laboratories (RALs) and is authorized to proficiently conduct grading and marking procedures.

A certificate of Authorization (C.A.) is granted to such parties upon request after they submit the required documents and verify their capacity to process and pack the commodity. The approved Chemist of the C.A., holder analyzes the raw material and the processed commodity to determine the grade standard and ensures it is plugged in their presence.

Inspecting Officers of DMI regularly conduct visits to authorized premises for inspections and draw check samples, which are analyzed in the Regional Agmark Laboratories (RALs) to ensure that they meet the prescribed standards. Check samples are also removed from the market and examined in RALs.

There are more than six thousand Certificate of Authorization holders throughout the country. These holders grade and mark agricultural commodities through approved laboratories. Vegetable oils, ghee, honey, creamery butter, spices, wheat atta, suji, maida, besan, etc., are popularly graded and certified under AGMARK for domestic trade. Agmark-certified products are pre-tested in the laboratories of authorized packers according to prescribed standards.

Labelling requirements for AGMARK-certified products

All products certified under Agmark should have the Agmark logo and the following details printed on them:

  1. Name and address of the authorized packer
  2. Name of the commodity
  3. Grade
  4. Lot/Batch/T.F. No.
  5. Date of packing
  6. Best Before Date
  7. Net Weight /Volume
  8. Maximum Retail Price
  9. Ingredients should be listed in descending order of their weight (in case of mixed spices, etc.)

Grading and Certification for Exports

DMI certifies many exported agricultural commodities, with essential oils, fruits, and vegetables being essential. The European Commission has approved DMI’s conformity-checking operations for the pre-shipment inspection of fresh fruits and vegetables to EU countries.

The Agricultural Marketing Adviser has been officially designated as the authoritative body, while Dairy Management Inc., (DMI) has been appointed as the inspection agency for this specific purpose. Inspection and certification are voluntary. DMI currently handles the accreditation of fruits and vegetables for exports through approved laboratories, focusing on grapes and onions.

Certification involves compliance with grade standards outlined in the Fruits and Vegetables Grading and Marking Rules, 2004. Additionally, food safety parameters such as pesticide residues and heavy metals must conform to those specified by the Codex Alimentarius Commission or the requirements of importing countries.

Infrastructure for Certification Programs

The Agricultural Marketing Adviser is pivotal in guiding and directing the Dairy Management Inc., (DMI) towards the Government of India. It has headquarters in Faridabad and operates 11 Regional Offices and 26 Sub-offices nationwide to implement the certification program.

The Head Office in Faridabad handles policy matters and the framing/revision of standards. Additionally, 11 Regional Agmark Laboratories (RALs) spread throughout the country provide analytical support for analyzing research samples and checking samples collected from authorized packers’ premises and the market.

These RALs also analyze private samples received from any stakeholder on a payment basis. The Central Agmark Laboratory in Nagpur serves as the apex laboratory.

Furthermore, there are three cotton classing centres in Abohar, Surat, and Nagpur. These centres offer services to benefit cotton growers, their cooperatives, ginning and pressing cooperatives, federations, etc.

They provide accessible cotton sample testing facilities to farmers and their cooperatives for testing various quality parameters. Additionally, these centres offer training in Kapas grading to personnel sponsored by the government, semi-government organizations, cooperatives, and other institutions.

Role of Central Agmark Laboratory (CAL) and Regional Agmark Laboratories (RALs)

The Directorate of Marketing & Inspection, responsible for the Agmark quality control system, has established 11 Regional Agmark Laboratories (RALs) spread across the country. The Central Agmark Laboratory (CAL) in Nagpur is the apex laboratory. These RALs are assigned to carry out the following essential functions:

(i) Analysis of research samples of agricultural commodities to frame their standards.

(ii) Analysis of check samples of Agmark-certified commodities to ensure conformance with prescribed standards.

(iii) Providing professional training to chemists employed by authorized packers and approved laboratories in grading agricultural commodities.

CAL, Nagpur, is the apex laboratory primarily engaged in research activities. In association with RALs, CAL also undertakes:

a) Evolving new methods and standardizing existing methods of analysis/tests for food and agricultural commodities, including meat products.

b) Formulating specifications for new commodities to be included under the Agmark purview.

c) Revising specifications for various commodities, including agricultural and food products and meat products.

d) Creating awareness among consumers and traders regarding the grading, standardization, and quality of various food and agricultural products.

AGMARK Standards and the PFA Act

Applicability of AGMARK standards under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act:

AGMARK provisions apply to the following items under PFA Rules:

A. Rule 15 of PFA: If a food sample is taken from an AGMARK-sealed container by the Food Inspector, the label on the sample container must also include the following additional information:

(a) Grade;
(b) AGMARK Label No./Batch No.;
(c) Name of Packing Station.

B. Rule 44B of PFA: Ghee with a lower Reichert Value and a different standard for Butyro-Refractometer Reading at 40ºC than specified for its origin area shall only be stored or sold under the ‘AGMARK’ seal.

C. Rule 44C of PFA: Til Oil obtained from white Sesame seeds cultivated in Assam, West Bengal and Tripura with different standards than specified for Til oil, shall only be sold in sealed containers bearing the AGMARK label or seal.

D. Rule 44E of PFA: Kangra Tea can only be sold if it is properly graded and marked by provisions under the APGM Act, 1973, and rules made thereunder. It must be sold in sealed packages/containers bearing the AGMARK Seal.

E. Rule 49 (21): Blended Edible Vegetable Oils should only be available for sale in securely sealed packages weighing not more than 5kg and must bear the AGMARK seal by provisions under the APGM Act, 1937.

F. Rule 49 (23): Fat spread must be sold only in sealed packages weighing not more than 500g and must bear the AGMARK seal by provisions under the APGM Act of 1937.



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