South Africa – Exchange rate volatility, rising energy, transport and labour costs, unseasonal weather and disease – these are just some of the risks beyond the control ofSouth Africa’s fruit exporters. However, getting packaging right is a key decision that can be controlled and is a factor that can make the difference between success and failure.
According to the Citrus Growers Association, 70% of citrus grown in South Africais exported. In 2011, South Africa ranked as the world’s third largest exporter of fresh citrus fruit by volume behind Spain and Turkey, and is ranked 13th in the world in terms of citrus production.
Given the complexities of the global fruit supply chain, packaging has had to evolve from the simple wooden boxes that were traditionally used to transport produce. Today’s packaging companies have to supply fruit farmers with high-quality products that can be customised for individual needs and support growing branding opportunities, while withstanding the rigours of the export process.
The consequence of poor packaging is particularly manifested in less-developed countries where it’s estimated that up to 40% of all post-harvest produce is lost. “There are a multitude of factors to consider when packing for the fruit industry. Good quality corrugated boxes are of utmost importance”, comments Ralph von Veh, MD of Mpact Corrugated, a division of Mpact, one of southern Africa’s leading paper and plastics packaging group. “Packaging failures can result in a huge cost to the farmer and possibly damage a key sector of the economy. Well-packaged, well presented fruit will always command a premium price”, he adds.
For more than a century, Mpact has been producing quality corrugated packaging and is the major supplier to a fruit industry that exports to destinations as far afield as the Far East and theUS. “We have invested significant resources in technology, plants, people and infrastructure in order to produce lighter, stronger, more innovative packaging which is not only better for handling purposes and driving efficiencies for the farmer, but also allows us to contain cost increases, ensuring we are constantly competitive”, claims Ralph von Veh.
Packaging needs to have vertical strength when stacked for export to withstand up to 1,500kg on the bottom layer. Corrugated-based export packaging also needs to cope with up to six weeks under refrigeration.
Not only is turnaround time important, but fruit can vary in size by up to 20% and farmers can also have up to five or six export ranges which require different carton sizes and brands.
Additionally, packaging has become an integral part of brand building, not merely an interim transport mechanism and Mpact has invested in presses capable of printing in up to six colours, giving the company a leading position in high-graphic printing on corrugated boxes.
Editor´s note: It´s worth to remind that Mpact cartons and designs are also exported to countries such as India and Brazil, which then package their fruit for export to Europe.