Part 3. Back to Basics: Inspections DRC perspective


This three-part series on the importance of destination inspection services has included guest interviews with Tom Oliveri, Director of Trade Practices & Commodity Services at Western Growers and Jim Gordon, Operations Manager at Ippolito Produce. This third instalment provides DRC’s perspective shared by President and CEO, Fred Webber.

One of the most requested services asked of the DRC Trading Assistance Staff is to interpret the results of inspections held to document the quality and condition of produce on arrival. Whether the inquiry is about size, condition, colour, quality, temperature, ripeness or any number of potential issues, it is the inspection held at the buyer’s dock that is the cornerstone of resolving most disputes.

As the seller is hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away they cannot see the product. The seller relies on that inspection to tell them what the product looks like, give them a clear picture of the problem and an indication of what caused it.

The United States and Canada provide a dedicated fruit and vegetable inspection service. Inspectors working for these services receive ongoing training and are held accountable to providing inspections based on consistent terms and sampling procedures. These inspections are backed up by work notes and can be reviewed by supervisory personnel. There are also procedures for appeal inspections when either party believes there has been an error or the samples taken by the inspector do not reflect the real condition of the load.

DRC receives inquiries from firms regarding private (non Government) surveys. While some of these inquiries are specifically about the defects shown on the report, most of the inquiries focus on whether or not the parties agreed to use a private survey in lieu of a government inspection.

We acknowledge there may be good reason to use private companies even when a government inspection is available.  However, the fact that we continue to receive calls objecting to private surveys is evidence that a better understanding of responsibilities is needed.

A party claiming an agreement to use an alternate service was established has the burden of proving such an agreement was reached. We frequently advise members that this means it was discussed, understood, and agreed (DUA) that a private survey would be called rather than a government one.

From DRC’s perspective, private surveys, like internal quality control reports, are often used by firms who deal regularly and have established a trust relationship. For those firms trading infrequently, especially if it is a first time transaction, we rarely see that an “agreement” was reached before a private survey was requested or performed. If the use of a private survey was not discussed, understood, and agreed to, the survey may be of no value.

In the US and Canada a federal inspection is the default requirement and the DRC Good Inspection Guidelines specify that these Federal Inspection services are to be used unless they are not available.