A Fresh Produce Packhouse is exactly what the name suggests; a structure where fruits and vegetables are packed. Packhouses have their origin in the need for certain types to be cleaned, graded, wrapped or packaged and one of the earliest example of effective produce packhouses are those in the Californian citrus industry. In later years, packhouses were the most effective location for automated stickering fruit or determining ripening level so that fruit with that characteristic, for example, could be seperately handled and packed.
Of course, it is not only fruit that is processed at a packhouse; potatoes, onions, kumara and tomatoes are key vegetable crops which typically also reach the market via a packhouse. And yes, one could argue that tomatoes are technically a fruit, but that is a debate for another page.
Initially, many growers operated their own small packhouses. As economies of scale evolved, professional packhouse operators emerged in the industry. This meant growers were focusing on produding the crop and packhouses swung into action at harvest time. With this approach both growers and packers could concentrate on their respective core businesses.
Unfortunately though, this division of labour created new challenges. Wholesalers and retailers started to pay more attention to packhouses which they quite rightly saw as consolidators presenting a time factor efficiency for buyers. Packhouses then demanded greater consistency of supply in terms of grade, size, ripeness and volume from the growers supplying them, in order to meet retailer demand. Instead of being a service to growers, packhouses began to see themself as an extension of the retailer.
This had growers at times withholding fruit from packers or switching packhouses to what they perceived to be operators with more reasonable expectations.
A Fresh Produce Packhouse without fruit to pack is unfortunately not a viable economic proposition which is why packhouse soon started to re-integrate with growing operations - or started their own.
Today, the most successful packhouses are either grower-owned or have finanical interests in growing operations.