Food logistics – how produce moves from farm to consumer – is not well-known by the public. These behind-the-scenes steps are vital to ensure quality, safety and traceability in a global food supply – notably in the case of world-popular oranges.
Fresh orange production in selected countries
A Citrus Farmer: Creating Consistent Quality
At da Costa Mello’s citrus farm, after employees pick the fruit, it’s carried to the packing house. The fruit harvested on a Monday, for example, is processed on Wednesday – it is purposely left to sit a few days in order to reveal any possible damage, so it can be removed.
Meanwhile, the farm’s packing house prepares the non-damaged fruit to leave promptly and securely. The time between harvest and arrival at CEAGE-SP, South America’s largest central fruit and flower market, is only two to five days, including travel time. Maintaining quality is a major priority, da Costa Mello explains: “After the fruit is harvested and taken to the packing house, it is washed and dried. A carnauba-based (palm leaf) wax – for gloss and durability – as well as a preventive fungicide are applied.” Damaged fruit is removed and sent to the juice industry, for juice extraction.
Da Costa Mello supports his business by having professional guidance: “We have a consultant, and there is the team at the farm, comprised of an agronomist and technicians, who monitor production.” To get products from the citrus fields to the first marketplace, there are always challenges: for a citrus farmer like da Costa Mello, maintaining the quality of his delicate prizes is a constant priority.
The Orange Exporter: Managing Orange Safety
500 kilometers southeast of Paranapuã is the Alfa Citrus farm and export company. For its owner, 59 year-old Pedro Luiz Favero, and the staff, food safety is a primary concern – as well as the safety of farm workers: in order to ensure sanitation, personal protective equipment is inspected, harvested material is disinfected and all harvest material is separated according to the property it came from. “This avoids bacteria-contaminated material from being loaded,” says Favero.
The Orange Exporter
The Food Logistics Manager – Directing the Overall Orchestra
Over the year, we process around 1.5 million 40 kilogram boxes. 95 percent of the fruit we market is produced at our company's own farms.
The Logistics of Fresh Fruit
With an eye on logistics timing, the less food we waste. We do our part to ensure that the world is fed sustainably.
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Lenz also maintains expertise in the regulations of international import and export of live foods. With laws varying by country, a logistics company has to understand how transportation timing will affect food quality. Lenz and his food logistics team must also monitor if something falters in the transportation chain: “Every extra day longer in the transport process ultimately shortens the product’s shelf-life.”
Transporting solid oranges has additional special considerations: “Unlike bananas, oranges are harvested when they are ripe. But they cannot be overripe because they will not survive transport.” Oranges originating within Europe are predominantly sent to European consumers via trucks. Intercontinental transport like – South America to Europe or between Europe and Asia – is primarily based on sea transport, which is more economical than air freight: “The key is that the product is prepared properly, so that it can withstand transport time by sea.”
No two days are alike for Lenz and his team; their tasks range from joint farm visits with customers all the way through making sure that the same fruit arrives safely at a market – anywhere in the world. Overall, DHL FoodLogistics manages separate parts or the entire logistics chain for customers. The public, Lenz adds, is unlikely to be aware of this specialized division within the company. “And many people are under the impression that logistics is done by pressing a button. With the example of citrus, we can see that every case is special.”
Lenz takes pride in his role in the fruit logistics chain – not the least of which is due to the end result: “We provide high quality care at every step, so that food is available at acceptable prices for consumers. In the end, the oranges are available – and customers are supported at every step along the way.”
Not long from now, Andreas Lenz will end his working day; meanwhile, the farmers and exporters in Brazil’s Citrus Belt will still be picking, sorting and packing. Oranges are being sent from ports, airports and highways, and the transport process is being monitored. In every hour, somewhere in the world, another step in the logistics process continues – and quality oranges keep coming safely to our markets.
The key is that the product is prepared properly, so that it can withstand transport time by sea.