Jun 28, 2017: Tracking the transportation process of perishable commodities from the time it leaves the manufacturer to the time it reaches the end consumer is an extremely complicated process. There are high chances that the product can be exposed to temperature excursion which can damage the product and also the reputation of the company. More often than not, the shippers are prone to setbacks when weak points infiltrate the chain of custody.

Given this backdrop, the Global Cool Chain Association Perishable Conference held on June 26, 2017, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, brought in industry stakeholders to deliberate the theme of “Cool chain excellence - the future of perishable logistics.”

The event organised by STAT Trade Times, a premier trade publication, catering to the air cargo, aviation and shipping industry, saw participation from 78 delegates of which 37 were growers.

The recently concluded one-day event got to a good start with Sebastiaan Scholte, Chairman, Cool Chain Association (CCA) officially inaugurating the event and delivering the opening remarks marking the start of the conference.

In a presentation by Russell Tom, Regional Director, Cargo Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes on air cargo market forecast and perishable market trends, he stated that African market holds a lot of potentials. He added, “All the commodities exported from Africa – fresh cut flowers, seafood, pharmaceuticals – benefit from the cool chain.”

Johan Leunen, Cargo & Logistics Development Manager, Brussels Airport Company, Nathan De Valck, chairman, Pharma. Aero explained the process involved in the handling of perishables through a presentation.

In the first panel discussion on new generation cold chain management – from building infrastructure to mining data for cargo integrity, Tewodros Zewdie, Executive Director, Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association (EHPEA), identified the need to have integrated service providers in the country.

According to Fitsum Abady, MD of Ethiopian Cargo Services, “Logistics in Africa, as far as perishables is concerned; there is a long way to go. Technology, information flow, adequate infrastructure are key to proper handling of perishables.” He highlighted the single window service initiative that will be implemented soon for the benefit of traders. He also informed that the airline is in the process of obtaining IATA CEIV certification.

Johan Leunen, Cargo & Logistics Development Manager, Brussels Airport Company, the moderator for the session, said, “I think there is a lack of transparency in the process & technology can help us.”

The session that followed soon after witnessed no-holds-barred discussion on innovative solutions to improve the cold chain value proposition and thus reduce wastage.

Identifying the problem, one of the panellists Frank Van Gelder, Business Manager, Adelantex, said, “The problem is we don’t share data, we don’t communicate.”

To add to that, Stavros Evangelakakis, Manager Global Products Management, Cargolux and Board Member, CCA, pointed out the fact that it is challenging to create a common platform for data sharing as the industry is quite fragmented.

The panellists for the session were of the view that digitisation is the way forward. “What we need to do is to go disruptive really, commented Frank Van Gelder, Business Manager, Adelantex. Stavros Evangelakakis, Manager Global Products Management, Cargolux and Board Member, CCA, said, “Digitisation is the way forward.”

Tewodros Zewdie, EHPEA, was also of the opinion that supply chain should focus on new technologies as we need to understand that the usual way of doing business has no future.

Presenting the shippers’ point of view, Elizabeth Kimani, General Manager, Sian Roses/Maasai Flowers, said, “The key element is collaboration. We should organise ourselves into groups.” Commenting on the current scenario, “I see a lot of improvement, a lot of information sharing; flowers wastage has been reduced.”

I think instead of looking at perishables as a whole; we need to find what each commodity needs, suggested one of the participants at the conference.

The third session followed a different pattern of discussion and debate where the community formed three groups to deliberate on three major topics in the air logistics of perishables: ‘Standardisation; Optimisation, Implementation’.

The conference concluded on a high note with all panellists agreeing on solutions such as vertical integration, looking at more innovative solutions to increase visibility, information sharing, to keep the perishable shippers satisfied.

Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airport and SKY FRESH, supported the conference as key sponsors for the event. The event was supported by key organisations: Ethiopian Horticulture and Agriculture Investment Authority, Royal Flora Holland and Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association (EHPEA).

Photo: Panelists for the first session: from L-R: Tewodros Zewdie, Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association (EHPEA); Fitsum Abady, Ethiopian Cargo Services; Dave Zoetemelk, Celtic Cooling; Sebastiaan Scholte, Jan de Rijk Logistics & CCA and Johan Leunen, Cargo & Logistics Development Manager, Brussels Airport Company(moderator)

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