Fruit and vegetable products are produced in different places in a country, and in many cases, this production is far removed from large consumer centers. In any circumstance, for example, such as the one currently traversing the world with covid-19, thousands of tons of fruits and vegetables continue to be transported daily, small, medium, or long distances, both within countries and internationally.
Transport is usually the highest cost factor in the marketing channel and in the case of airborne export products, this cost usually exceeds that of production, this occurs most often in the least developed countries. The method for transporting fruits and vegetables is determined by distance, perplexibility and value of the product, factors that are regulated by time. Whatever method is used, the principles of transport are the same, hence the selection of fruit and vegetable products must be rigorous and very careful to achieve the following aspects:
• Loading and unloading should be as careful as possible
• The product must be well protected in relation to its susceptibility to physical damage
• Shaking and movements should be reduced to the minimum possible
• Climate factors must be monitored and countered.
• The loss of water from the product must be restricted
•Once the required storage conditions have been reached, they must be kept constant, in particular with regard to temperature, relative humidity and air circulation.
The shocks suffered due to the incorrect handling of fruit and vegetable products with the packaging during loading and unloading, are a frequent cause of damage to the product and to the packaging, in Casa Fresca we use drawerras or plastic baskets for this purpose, these can be minimized:
• Using designs and weight packs compatible with the handling method, in the plastic baskets of Casa Fresca we place a maximum of 20 to 25kg of fruits for transfer to the plant, so that they do not be misused with each other during their transfer
• By properly handling and monitoring the load/unloading avoiding careless handling, making sure that workers are strong enough and of adequate height for the job
• By using ramped loading areas, which have great advantages to load trucks with the product, for those companies whose costs do not allow it to adapt to this, to ensure that the load is carried out as delicate as possible.
• Providing protection against climate variations in loading and unloading areas
•Using equipment to mobilize, in order to reduce the most possible manual manipulation, in case you touch to do so, activate strict monitoring and quality control mechanisms.
How the product is stoeded on the transport vehicle depends on the packaging, product and type and size of the vehicle, but it should always be carefully planned and handled to minimize damage, both physically and environmentally. The following are some useful recommendations:
• Load in such a way as to make the most of the space and reduce the movement of fruit and vegetable products.
• Evenly distribute weight
• When dispatching mixed product loads, place the merchandise in reverse order to their unloading sequence
• Leave openings for ventilation
• Stow only to a height whose load can withstand the lower containers without being crushed or damaged, the capacity of the vehicle must not be exceeded
•Ensure that the vehicle is properly maintained; breakdowns mean wasted time and can cause excessive or total deterioration of the product
•Choose the driver carefully, as inefficient or inexperienced drivers mean more damage to the product and to the vehicle
For in-country transportation, the use of ground vehicles offers substantial advantages in terms of amenities, availability and flexibility, allowing door-to-door delivery and a reasonable transportation cost. The use of land transport for international trade is ideal if environmental conditions permit them and the processing center, as well as the customer are close at a land customs office. Fruit and vegetable products can be transported in vans, gandolas, open, closed trucks or refrigerated vehicles.
Vehicles Closed. These are suitable only for short trips, unless they are equipped with some cooling system, since the product heats up quickly inside, this also depends on the country where it is made, with respect to its climate. However, they protect the product from theft and physical damage so they are often used for deliveries to city retailers.
Open Vehicles. Vans and open trucks are the most common type of ground transportation. natural ventilation is usually sufficient to prevent overheating of fruit and vegetable products during relatively short trips; there are models of these more or less sophisticated vehicles depending on the country where they are located, the really important thing is that when transporting fruits and/or vegetables are protected from climate variations, in some countries they have advantages in terms of natural ventilation while in others they must develop ventilation systems.
Refrigerated Vehicles. The use of refrigerated vehicles is necessary for some highly perishable products, and in case of long distances, but they should actually be used as part of a cold chain, in most refrigerated vehicles special equipment is used for such purposes. Mechanical cooling systems installed on trucks vary depending on their cooling capacity. Most serve only to maintain the temperature of the product that has been pro-cooled by other means, since they have low capacity fans that circulate the air, only enough to cool the air that is heated due to the slow breathing of the cold product. On long journeys some form of ventilation may be necessary to avoid oxygen reduction and carbon dioxide accumulation.
Some refrigerated vehicles such as trailer trucks that have a refrigerated container mounted on the back platform are able to quickly cool the hot product by forced circulation, but this is usually an exception due to its high cost.
In developing countries, there is a tendency to use refrigerated trucks with relatively low cooling capacity, as a pro-cooling system for export products. And in fact today, fruit and vegetable products are exported in refrigerated or refrigerated containers, it is convenient, that without a company has no cold storage capacity, it must have a strategic planning, of transfer of the field, to the plant for processing and subsequent containment, all in accordance with agile dispatch. Treatments are now being applied for fruit and vegetable products approved by the United Nations Food and FAO Development Organization so that they travel in refrigerated vehicles and containers without losing all their quality and freshness.
In developed countries, fruit and vegetable exports are often carried out with refrigerated ships, because of the duration of the voyage, it is a form of refrigerated storage, so all the precautions necessary for this type of collection are valid in these circumstances.
Refrigerated boats. They are equipped for cooling, have efficient systems for air circulation and air exchange speed control. Loading is facilitated by the existence of side hatches or by the use of special continuous conveyor belts that carry individual packages from the loading dock to the ship’s central hatches and then to the cargo holds (used in the same way for unloading). Refrigerated boats are generally large capacity (4000 tons and more) and regularly transport fresh produce, mainly fruit, worldwide. Transport by refrigerated boats is usually used for the export of large volumes of fresh produce, which requires the hiring of full-time staff by large producers. In developing countries, a multinational company or a very strong cooperative is usually also involved, otherwise the volumes exported do not allow the rental of a refrigerated boat (charter).
If the ship lease is to be successful, it is necessary to organize the regular supply of products for long periods, otherwise the ships that are to be leased may not be available, but there are even a large number of developing countries in which refrigerated boats do not arrive or are used for their high costs
Refrigerated or refrigerated containers. They are a specialized form of shipping that is rapidly gaining international popularity. Each container can have its own independent cooling system, or it can have a mechanism that allows them to feed on the ship’s cooling. Refrigerated containers have standard dimensions, all 8 x 8 feet wide, but can be 10, 20, 30, or 40 feet long. The most commonly used dimensions are the 40-foot size and then the 20-foot dimensions. The container can be purchased or leased; its cost can be very high and can vary greatly in quality, performance, and depending on the country where the service is offered, the company that contracts the service decides the temperature that your product requires and informs the shipping line.
Air transport is very expensive and is only justified for high-value export products, such as exotic tropical fruits and vegetables for markets in Europe, North America and other countries that do not produce them in certain seasons of the year or in sufficient quantity depending on their consumption demand. These markets are very sophisticated and request products of the highest quality, which must be carefully packed almost always in standardized cartons and properly labeled. All air exports require careful market research, planning, organization and administration. Success requires incorporating a pro-cooling facility, refrigerated trucks and possibly refrigerated facilities at the airport into the infrastructure. Constant communication with prices and fluctuations in demand, along with feedback on quality control.
Air Containers. Fresh produce can be shipped on a cargo plane or in the area available for the loading of a passenger plane. The amount that can be sent varies depending on the aircraft and available space, and can be up to 45 tons. Many aircraft use container-based cargo units that adapt to the contours of the hold, but also the transport of goods in individual packages. In the case of fruit and vegetable products, internationally certified wooden pallets are often used.
Temperature and Pressure. Cargo holds are often maintained at the same temperature and pressure as the passenger area, but on leased cargo flights this may not happen. At high altitudes very low temperatures and pressures can cause irreversible damage to the product by freezing, so flight conditions should always be checked with the airline. Many modern cargo planes have a temperature control system that can be adjusted to particular needs and usually a simple request to the pilot at the time of loading is sufficient for these purposes.
Changing the fresh product from one flight to another at the airport in an intermediate country may result in the loss of boarding unless supervisory personnel are available at that airport. Direct flights should always be preferred to avoid delays, deterioration and economic losses.
One of the most recent developments in North America and European countries has been the concept of “cold chain”. This includes the rapid cooling of the product after harvesting at the lowest possible temperature that does not cause damage and then keep the temperature of the product constant through all stages of post-harvest handling, packaging, storage and marketing including its display in the retail market, but it may not necessarily be so in some developing countries, whereby the start-up of the cold chains are different because of their high costs.
Until now it has only been possible to use the complete cold chain for product marketing, when large organizations participate that integrate to better control all aspects of post-harvest, when they themselves are the main retailers at the supermarket level and when they sell large volumes of products.
Licda. Luz Desiree Rodriguez
Alexander Humboldt University
Founder – CEO Casa Fresca.