Fruit Trade Logistics

Fruit Trade Logistics covers "a multitude of sins"..., in fact all aspects of getting fruits and vegetables to their ultimate destination.

How should the produce be harvested?  When should harvest commence?  What are the resources needed?  Where shall the harvested produce be packed and stored? Who will do the packing?  Is it the harvest crew or do I need a seperate team?  Do I pack in cardborard, returnable crates or plastic sacks?  What is the ideal pack weight?  How much shrink should I allow for? How do I move the produce from field to shed - and is that where it actually ought to go?

Ten questions requiring an answer and we are only scratching the surface in terms of the number of questions that need asnwering if we want to get our produce from the field or orchard to the consumer. Where do we start...and does it actually matter?

Let me put it this way...

  • Post-harvest management and logistics are birds of a feather but not one and the same.
  • A perfectly grown and professionally crop will be his owner's pride and joy, yet not earn a single cent without a well considered logistics strategy.
  • No two crops have the same logistics profiles, neither have two identical crops grown in different locations.

Now that I have your attention, I will clearly need to elaborate.

Post-harvest management versus Logistics

Post-harvest management concerns itself with the physical well-being of a crop; logistics is about getting a shipment of produce to its destination whilst taking the post-harvest management requirements of the crop into account.

Good post-harvest management alone will not get a crop moving.  Logistics alone may ensure that a crop reaches its destination - but without having taken the post-harvest requirements into account, the quality status of the crop upon arrival could be an unpleasant surprise.

Logistics Strategy

In its purest form a Logistics Strategy deals with packaging, the packing process, storage (or not, as the case may be), handling in the broadest sense, transport, loading, unloading, etc. The skill sets needed for this part of getting fruits and vegetables to the consumer are distinct to good growing skills. The larger the production enterprise, the more likely the logistics function is being handled by a separate manager or management team.  

That situation also potentially causes a challenges  if the logistics team is not in tune with post-harvest crop requirements.  Fruit Trade Logistics has over the years therefore been 'incorporated' into a the broader business discipline of Supply Chain Management.

Unique Logistics Profiles

A crop of peaches needs to be handled far more gingerly than a crop of apples.  Not that apples can be tossed about like tennis balls...and some apple varieties bruise a lot easier than others, Fuji being a case in point. Some fruit types can be packed in bulk bins, others are best shipped in single layer cartons with plenty of padding.  Potatoes like it dark, but they do want to breathe.  Packing them into non-permeable high density black plastic bags would therefore not be a smart idea.  Yet, covering endive with anything else during transit would cause the product to arrive at the sueprmarket in an unsaleable state.  Distance to market, road conditions, prevailing temperatures and time of year can all have significant influence on the Logistics Profile of any given crop. Fruit Trade Logistics in Australia, for example, is predominantly based on interstate road transport.  This includes the banana crop.  Grown in Queensland and to a lesser extent in New South Wales.  Bananas are a prohibited import, so the issue of having to discharge ocean going banana vessels at the Ports of Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney, is no worth consideration if you are an Australian fruit trader.  The rest of the developed world gets its bananas by boat; a different Fruit Trade Logistics profile altogether.



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