Regional commercial manager for Africa Graham Tufft talks us through trends in perishables shipments from Africa
What sorts of perishable goods does IAG Cargo ship out of Africa?
Each year we fly 25,000 tonnes of perishable goods out of Africa under our Constant Fresh product, with commodities ranging from fish to flowers, and all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables. It may be tuna caught off the coast of South Africa destined for New York, freshly cut Ghanaian mangos heading for the shelves of UK supermarkets, or even roses grown in Kenya flying to Japan for Mother’s Day celebrations.
Have you noticed any recent trends?
Africa has long been known for the quality and diversity of its fresh produce and we have seen sustained demand for all manner of perishable goods originating in the region over the first half of 2018. Production levels of specific commodities can always fluctuate with seasonality and changes in weather conditions – the drought in the Western Cape being a recent example of where we have seen weather affect the mix of perishable commodities, particularly the types of fruits being exported by air.
As for wider trends, there has been for some time now a steady rise in demand from UK supermarkets for more bespoke products. An example would be prepared fruit salads, and in tandem with this we have seen a trend of exporters performing more and more of the washing, cutting, and packaging of these goods towards the beginning of supply chains, often now immediately after picking at the farms of origin. We have also seen a continued trend amongst international flower buyers, particularly from Asia and North America, preferring to source directly from the growers in Kenya, as opposed to from the auctions in the Netherlands.
How long does it take for products to get from farm to supermarket?
It really depends on the origin, destination, and commodity but if we take prepared fruit salads originating in South Africa as an example… the fruits can be picked, washed, cut, and packed on Monday, flown overnight to land at Heathrow on Tuesday, and be on supermarket shelves all across the UK by Wednesday morning.
What are some of the key considerations for shippers transporting perishables?
Preserving product quality and maximising shelf life are the key objectives behind perishable supply chains. By their very nature, perishable goods are extremely sensitive and our focus at IAG Cargo is always therefore to ensure that we achieve speed and reliability for our customers, whilst at the same time handling their goods with the utmost care. Depending on the type of commodity travelling, there may be specific temperature requirements that we need to control, or even packaging materials that may be particularly sensitive to physical handling or moisture. Getting all of this right means working extremely closely with our customers in aligning our process to best suit their needs, and this is exactly why our Constant Fresh product exists.