Sustainable packaging, standardisation buoy Africa’s perishable shipping fortunes
The amount of wastage in perishables has been a growing issue worldwide.
Less damage, fewer rejects, optimised and standardised packaging, higher margins and less packaging waste- these are the hallmarks of the supply chain that can ensure that perishables have a longer shelf life. Newer innovations in recent years including the development of novel food packaging i.e. modified atmosphere and active packaging has contributed to achieving not only increased the shelf life of perishables and flowers but also their safety and quality.
When it comes to perishables - a fantastic cold chain will not pay off if the post-harvest water on the farm is contaminated. Similarly, an excellent post-harvest and cold chain is also not likely to pay off if poor packaging is used. This leads to the conclusion that fast, reliable perishable shipping is the backbone of the food and flower businesses. The improvements in perishable logistics mean sensitive products are handled and transported appropriately to maintain shipment integrity.
The amount of wastage in perishables has been a growing issue worldwide. In recent years, the development of novel food packaging i.e. modified atmosphere and active packaging has not only increased the shelf life of perishables and flowers but also their safety and quality. To extend the shelf life and protect the perishable product during transit, stakeholders from the packaging industry are playing a fair role in changing it for the better.
Setting Packaging standards
For years, the flower industry did not have any supply chain standards. This was until a solution arrived in the form of an industry-wide standardisation with an easy-to-implement and subscription-based solution called ‘FlowerWatch Quality Standards’ for global flower supply chains.
FlowerWatch, an initiative led by Dutch scientist and floriculture entrepreneur Jeroen van der Hulst, had been working on identifying and solving temperature, quality, and packaging issues, even before launching the FlowerWatch Quality Standards and FlowerWatch Approved accreditation. The FlowerWatch Quality Standards are based on the practical experience of growers, traders, and auctioneers and are backed up by science.
van der Hulst says, “Post the Covid crisis, or even the Brexit situation, the supply chains have changed. We have seen that our Quality Standards are even more relevant than before, as supply chains change, we can see inefficiencies developing and new risks being introduced. Every supply chain old or new can now be assessed against the FlowerWatch Quality Standards, giving shippers the peace of mind that their cargo is in safe hands or that immediate action is required.”
Every supply chain old or new can now be assessed against the FlowerWatch Quality Standards, giving shippers the peace of mind that their cargo is in safe hands or that immediate action is required.
Jeroen van der Hulst, FlowerWatch
This development gains significance in light of the fact that more than 35 percent of the import cargo at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are flowers and Kenya is also the leading exporter to The Netherlands.
Strategic alliances, expansions lead the way
Owing to the sensitivity of the cargo, the Amsterdam Airport, and the Circular Alliance joined forces in 2020 to develop better solutions for importers and create sustainable solutions for the planet.
An Amsterdam Airport release cited, “The Circular Alliance has found a better way to ship all cargo. By standardising box sizes and making them from recycled plastics, the Alliance has set an ambitious goal: to reduce product importers’ carbon footprint by 25 percent, and also increase their profitability by 25 percent at the same time. These standard boxes will create more space in each freighter, which means fewer freighters have to fly. Above all, the boxes and pallets can last for five to seven years, and can then be recycled to create new boxes and pallets for another five years of usage, thereby reducing waste.”
As a member of the Circular Plastics Alliance, the Netherlands-based Fresco Flowers, believes that multiple parties will join the alliance to develop efficient and sustainable packaging and transport solutions. It has extensive market knowledge of the rose imports from Kenya as the company works by supporting various international initiatives for sustainably grown roses.
In May, Huhtamaki, a key global advanced manufacturer of sustainable packaging solutions set up a new manufacturing unit in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to serve its existing and new egg packaging customers in the KwaZulu-Natal area with a broad range of locally produced packaging solutions. The new facility will be located close to one of South Africa’s main export ports, enabling competitive exports of egg packaging for customers across East Africa.
One major challenge was a drop in air freight capacity due to the worldwide slowdown in travel and transport. The air freight capacity from Kenya, for example, had dropped by an estimated 25-30 percent.
“The addition of a unit in KwaZulu-Natal is an important addition to our fiber packaging footprint in South Africa - that will not only provide efficiencies in our service to customers in South Africa, but also give an additional benefit in terms of proximity to a major port which will drive access to markets across East Africa. The new facility sets us up to better meet the growth of the fiber packaging sector and future demand for sustainable packaging. It also strengthens our position in the region significantly,” says Eric Le Lay, president, fiber and foodservice Europe-Asia-Oceania, in a company release.
Pandemic-led supply chain innovations
The Covid-19 pandemic has placed huge pressure on global flower supply chains. One major challenge was a drop in air freight capacity due to the worldwide slowdown in travel and transport. The air freight capacity from Kenya, for example, had dropped by an estimated 25-30 percent.
Incidentally, this situation presented an opportunity for FlowerWatch to come up with three solutions including offering optimised packaging; sea freight; and storage solutions. What’s more, it further also began to offer standardisation in all three areas.
Speaking on the future developments, van der Hulst states, “We are thrilled by the opportunities that the current developments are offering and we can share the real-time data on any relevant key performance indicator (KPI) in the supply chain on a per shipments level, making supply chains transparent and enabling business partners to create value together, either on savings or on new business models, like working from a 5-10 day stock.”
He added, “The KPI’s of FlowerWatch are worthwhile, achievable and measurable and therefore an easy tool for the industry leaders to start with. We strongly believe that after two decades of fast growth in production and marketing, we are now entering an era whereby the flowers business starts competing on efficient supply chains.”