Disruption in fresh trade logistics requires stronger cold chains

Driven by increasing dietary changes by millennials, the demand for fresh fruit and vegetables has kept increasing in the last few years. A great part of this fresh produce is coming from tropical countries, shipped by air or sea freight, with this trade constantly growing despite the unprecedented supply chain disruptions in the last few years.

With the impacts of COVID-19 and the resulting lock-down of Chinese ports and industries, the cost of freight has almost doubled in a short amount of time. Furthermore, the 2021 Suez Canal blockage has further increased the cost and lead times. The combination of those events had already brought us to the lowest of all time schedule reliability for container deliveries. As if these impacts had not been disrupting the supply chain enough, the unfortunate war in Ukraine, is now massively increasing inspection times at terminals, further escalating the concerns on shelf-life for perishables.

It is clear that such disruption requires extended shelf-life of fresh produce, and that an efficient and reliable cold chain is the key lever to generate the longer shelf-life needed to overcome logistics disruption, and that is what InspiraFarms is offering to its customers, especially to agribusiness in export supply chains. Most of the shelf-life is generated at the initial entry point into the cold chain. The sooner after harvest the fresh produce is introduced into the cold chain, the longer the shelf-life will be.

Shelf-life is even more relevant for emerging economies and African food systems, where high-quality perishables generated for high-value markets undertake long journeys from farm to fork. When the fresh produce is not refrigerated as quickly as possible, under the current global logistics disruptions, there is a massive risk of having substantial volumes of shipped fruit and vegetables arriving in conditions that will prevent them from be sold to consumers. As a result, this creates a chain of massive revenue losses to producers and increased GHG emissions.

“Agribusinesses across Africa are highly aware of the logistics’ situation, and while some replacement of sea fright to airfreight can compensate for a small number of volumes, we are receiving an increasing and very important volume of requests for new pre-cooling and packhouse infrastructure near farm. The most competitive agribusinesses are massively investing in cold chain to mitigate risks and maintain or increase their bottom line while serving the growing demand,” says Dr. Michele Bruni, Inspirafarms Chief Commercial Officer.

Furthermore, the opening of Chinese markets to fruit and vegetables from Africa represents a massive emerging opportunity, for which African agribusinesses need to be prepared. Nevertheless, with over 25 days of sea freight transit time and important backlogs in both origin and destination ports, producers are looking at guaranteeing over 40 days of shelf-life at origin.

“Shorter cool downtimes, accurate airflows, and precooling methods, as well as leveraging data to ensure the longest possible shelf-life and quality, is what our clients are asking from us today”, affirms Dave Zoetemelk, InspiraFarms Director of Sales,

Disruption requires shelf-life, and shelf-life requires efficient cooling solutions. InspiraFarms is currently delivering cold chain solutions for perishables in 10 African countries, supporting its customers to increase their bottom line, control their OPEX, and to expand their knowledge and transparency of their operations and their produce’s post-harvest conditions