Shipping has two distinct and different meanings with the Fruit Trade. On one hand, it refers to the obvious;i.e., the dispatch of fruits or vegetables by ship. The second common usage of the term is in reference to the grower/packer/shipper concept which describes a supplier that has evolved over time. This page is all about the sea transport version of the term.
Fruits and vegetables have been shipped by boat since the old Phoenicans were peddling olives around the Mediterranean in the Antiquity. Very little has changed since, in principle, other than that the volume of produce shipped has increased, the ships have become a bit more sophisticated, the produce is looked after better, the price has gone up and the associated burocracy has increased.
Shipping fresh produce is still a complex logistical exercise, it still involves buyers and sellers working together, it still needs consumers who are willing to purchase the shipped produce and there is still plenty of room for things to go wrong.
Shipping is an expensive exercise and it is typically used for produce where there is a steady and know demand, where the margins justfy the expense and where substantial volumes of fruit can be be moved at the same time. Traditional examples include apples, bananas and kiwifruit which were traditionally shipped in reefer vessels.
The emergence of sea containers in the 1980s has created a new flexibility for produce distribution. Fruits and vegetables can now be shipped in smaller quantities in containers rather than by the vessel. This has opened up opportunities for crops that otherwise would not be necessarily shipped by dedicated reefer; for example, Chilean grapes, or has opened up markets for products that were hitherto not shipped due to lack of reefer route or the market not being able to cope with the volume represented by a dedicated reefer. One example are Philippine bananas in the New Zealand market.