Constraints

Constraints are limitations we meet in every day life. We might not be consciously aware of them but they are sure there.  In fact they are so prevelent in our lives that there is an entire theory named after them; the Theory of Constraints!

These limitations are nothing other than conditions which have an impact on a process or outcome from a managerial perspective. And there are a number of those that the fresh produce trade has to live with on a daily basis.

Perishability

Fruits and vegetables start deterioating the minute they are dug from the ground, plucked from the tree or vine or cut at ground level. In order to minimise the impact of this constraint we have invented a whole new scientific discipline...post-harvest management.  The ultimate function of post-harvest management is nothing other than slowing down the deterioation process to the point that the produce can be presented to the consumer in an acceptable fashion with reasonable retail shelf life and tolerable 'at home' keeping quality.

Climatic Conditions

Fruits and vegetables are not manufactured in sterile factory environments but are still grown in conditions where the weather plays a major role. Lack of sun, lack of heat, too much light, lack of cold, too much rain, not enough rain, are all factors which impact on how the finished produce presents itself.  Our efforts in building irrigation systems, heating glass houses, deliberatey exposing some crops to frosts etc, are all efforts to work around the limitations we have identified.

It is not something we think about all day long in a deep and meaningful way - we simply get on and do what needs to be done to get the produce to grow.

Logistics

Just one example will suffice...the weight of bananas and the volume consumed is too great to move bananas around the world by airplane. Luckily for us, bananas keep very well after harvest as long as they are handled professionally. They can therefore endure long sea journeys which negates the fact that it is uneconomic and virtually impossible to switch to airfreight.

Seasonality

This Constraint has reduced in relevance in recent years. Prior to the arrival of sophisticated technology in the fresh fruits and vegetables industry, we ate strawberries in late spring/early summer, peaches in summer, apples in autumn - and a lot green cabbage in winter. Unless we bought a hundredweight of apples and stored them in the cellar or had bottled strawberries, peaches and other fruit in summer.

Today seasons are blending into one another as we can easily fruit from around the world and are thus able to eat strawberries all year around, wallet size permitting.


This list of Constraints is not necessarily complete but it provides you with an idea as to what they are and you may well find that there are others which quite specifically relate to your part of the fresh produce value chain.


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