Certification – Quality – Safety

The Agricultural Cooperative of Zagora Pelion is one of the most historic businesses in Magnesia, as it has already completed 104 years of continuous operation. For this fact and for its contribution to the economic life of the region, it has been distinguished and has become a model for the facts of the Greek reality.

However, the Cooperative is also distinguished for its adherence to cultivation techniques with the aim of product quality and the protection of growers-consumers, alongside the preservation of the natural environment. The above is achieved with Techniques that are integrated into the Integrated Agricultural Production Management System and concerns all the crops of the member producers. At the same time, a complete Quality and Food Safety System for all the products it manages and markets, ensures the highest possible level of its goal.

Integrated Management System
The Integrated Management System is a system for organizing an agricultural holding that includes, among others, Good Agricultural Practice, Safety and Health of Workers, Product Safety, Traceability and Environmentally Friendly Actions. It aims to create the basis for efficient and profitable production and an economically viable and environmentally responsible agricultural enterprise, incorporating modern farming practices, resulting in the reduction of inputs.

Integrated crop management can be considered as a mode of agricultural production between conventional and organic farming, with the aim of fully meeting the demands of the modern consumer. Essentially, integrated management seeks the production of quality and safe fruits and nuts. But this is achieved without renouncing the achievements of modern science available to the producer. The significant difference between Integrated Management and conventional management is not found in the means, but in the rational way in which they are applied in the agricultural practice.

Producers are required to keep records of every activity on the farm (diaries of work in the field), rational input management systems (nutrition, irrigation, plant protection) are developed and all interventions are carried out after the technical advice of the agricultural experts.

In order to achieve the above, the Organization implements modern disease forecasting systems for the crops of the region, with the operation of 15 weather stations, effectively contributing to the control and management of fungal diseases, and especially fusicilla, a fungus that causes the most damage and degrades the quality of the final product, as well as the application of new techniques to combat insects with the method of “sexual confusion” (Confusio), mainly against the fruit rot of the apple tree (Cydia Pomonale). It is a lepidopteran insect that is the main enemy in apple cultivation. The so-called “sexual confusion or mating inhibition” relies on placing pheromone dispensers or pheromone spray devices in the air, which prevents the communication of insects (male and female), resulting in the disruption (dramatic reduction) of matings. The purpose of the method in the plots applied, as a result of the inhibition of the mating of the flourishing, is to reduce the spawning of the females. With this system, which covers 100% of the crops in the area, plant protection intervention is achieved directly on the insect and not on the fruits. At the same time, through the stations, the plant protection interventions that are carried out mainly in the spring, are limited to the minimum necessary and are carried out only when the data indicate the growth of the fungus, therefore preventive interventions are avoided.

The central aim is the minimum possible use of plant protection substances. This effort is carried out with the final aim of eliminating the residues of active substances in the products.

Food Quality and Safety System
The production of safe food and the protection of the health of the consumer is a moral responsibility and a legal obligation of A.S. Zagora and is based on a system based on which those parts of the production process where risks are, are identified and controlled. In other words, a system of prevention and not repression is applied, based not on the final control but on the identification and recognition of all possible negative factors for the health of the consumer at all post-harvest stages of production, on the analysis and assessment of the seriousness of the problems and the probability of occurrence them as well as in the identification of mechanisms for their control and treatment.

The above management systems it applies are based on the requirements of the standards AGRO2, GLOBALGAP/GRASP, ISO22000, and on the private standards of Super-market chains. For the above standards, the cooperative is controlled, inspected and certified by accredited certification bodies as well as by the chains that supply products.

The National Standard for Integrated Management in plant production AGRO2 was prepared by the Organization for the Certification and Supervision of Agricultural Products (OPEGEP), with the distinctive title AGROCERT.

The GLOBALGAP International Integrated Farm Assurance Standard is based on the Principles of Good Agricultural Practice (G.A.P) and comes from an initiative of the largest European supermarket chains. The great advantage of GLOBALG.A.P. is that being a globalized production standard (with ever-increasing application in more countries and markets), it provides recognition at an international level. GRASP (GLOBALG.A.P Risk Assessment on Social Practice) or Risk Analysis on Social Practices is an additional voluntary part of GLOBALG.A.P., which examines whether the health, safety and well-being of workers is ensured in the production process of its products Organization. In short, it is a certification for the social character of the business and the cultivation process of a product.

ISO 22000
ISO 22000 is the international food safety standard, which addresses the entire food chain from the ‘field of the producer’ to the ‘shelf of the consumer’, thus covering the entire range of activities of the Organization, from production to packaging, transportation and sale of its products.

Objectives of applied standards are:

  • The protection of the producer’s health.
  • The safety, health and welfare of farm workers.
  • The safety and hygiene of the product during its handling from harvesting to its sale.
  • The sustainability of the environment and the application of integrated control to deal with enemies and diseases.
  • Ensuring crop yields and producer income.
  • Compliance with product specifications both in the country of production and in the country of destination of the produced products.
  • The response to the demand of the consumers to produce safe products.

In addition to the above, the main issue for the Cooperative is the protection of the region’s water resources. With the LIFE PureAgroH2O project, which is 60% funded by the European Union, an innovative system that applies the photocatalytic nanofiltration method to the Cooperative’s facilities, for the purification of water waste and the elimination of possible pollutants, is planned to operate soon . The vision of the Cooperative is to contribute to the preservation of the natural environment of the region through the proper management of its water resources and the application of innovative solutions for the treatment of liquid waste resulting from the post-harvest treatment of fruits (washing).

At the same time, the Cooperative takes care of ensuring a high level of quality of the apples it markets. Within the framework of the LIFE PureAgroH2O program, the Cooperative cooperates with the Benakeio Phytopathological Institute, (body that coordinates the program), the National Natural Sciences Research Center “Demokritos”, which has developed the original method of photocatalytic nanofiltration and has undertaken the construction and installation of the system at the Cooperative’s premises, and the CIESOL Research Center of the University of Almería, which has undertaken the application of the technology on a smaller scale in collaboration with the SAT Citricos del Andarax fruit industry in Spain. After the installation and operation of the system, it is envisaged that the water to be used will be free of organic and inorganic pollutants that it may contain and at the same time the Cooperative will save approximately 95% of the water used per day of operation.

At the same time, in recent years, the amount of apples grown in the context of organic farming and traded with the relevant certifications and with a special trademark “ZAGORIN” has been constantly increasing.

All of the above, combined with the European certification of Protected Designation of Origin for apples, demonstrate that the apples and other products traded by the Cooperative, throughout their course, follow the modern requirements of national and European legislation for good agricultural practices.

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