Maximum residue limits (MRL) are a globally accepted tool in the food safety basket. It offers consumers a guarantee that fresh produce is safe for human consumption.
The traces of pesticide found on treated products are called residues, and MRLs, which may differ per country, set the highest legally tolerated level for these residues.
Adhering to the limits
To adhere to these limits may seem like a relatively simple exercise for producers but in reality, however, there are several retailers and certification agencies that set their own secondary MRL requirements that producers must adhere to. For instance, the MRL for a particular pesticide may be set at two parts per million in a destination country, but a particular retailer in that country may set its own limit at one part per million. This can become a nightmare for fresh produce farmers who play in these export markets.
Fluctuation in limits
In addition, MRLs are constantly changing. Taking the European Union as a destination example, the MRL for iprodione on grapes used to be 20mg/kg. The new limit, however, is set at 0,1mg/kg. If producers are not aware of these changes and have not adjusted their crop protection programs accordingly, they will not be able to export their fresh produce.
Another example is the MRL of fenbutatin oxide on citrus, which changed from 5mg/kg to 0,01mg/kg. Both grapes and citrus contribute towards the largest South African agricultural exports by value.
While these fluctuations are notable, the change can sometimes be minute, yet big enough for produce to get rejected, as in the case of the MRL for penconazole on pome fruit, which changed from 0,2mg/kg to 0,15 mg/kg.
CropLife invests in AgriIntel
This is why CropLife South Africa invested significantly in AgriIntel, a comprehensive database that can assist farmers to find suitable, registered plant protection products as well as invaluable MRL data for each crop, pesticide and export destination, including retailer requirements.
Producers simply need to register on the website. Once approved, they will be able to access the MRL data, enabling them to adjust their crop protection programs where needed to comply with export destination requirements.