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Cool Logistics Conference 2020

How has the global pandemic affected the cold chain?

Last week the Cool Logistics 2020 conference was taking place online. Delegates from around the world were ‘tuning in’ to hear presentations and discussions from experts in the cold chain logistics industry.

Session 2: “The fastest route to freshness” The future of agrofood supply chains was moderated by Steve Cameron, Director, Cameron Maritime Resources.

Franklin Ginus, Chief Mission Officer, BEFRANK, Netherlands started by saying that having just started up this year he was affected by the COVD pandemic. “There were changes in the value chain and also an increase in drugs coming from Ecuador. We had to challenge our partners to make sure that didn’t happen, we invested in body cams and two different temperature sensors so we could see where the containers were being opened. In the banana business it is very important that logistical handling is done on time as it can greatly affect the shelf life of the product, if you only have 30 days and the journey takes 18 days there is not a lot of room for delays, most of our losses are due to logistical delays.”

Michel Jansen, Managing Director, Total Produce, Netherlands said there have been two obvious developments: moves to shorten the supply chain and an increase in the cost through the supply chain also a need for sustainability and transparency.

”There has been an interesting shifting of power in the citrus supply chain, a shift in the balance of power, it seems now that the market is in control. At the moment growers don’t get what they need for the product, but we are moving into a seller’s market as there are more requirements from the EU, while other markets are available and its becoming more difficult to source fruit.”

Matthijs Montsma, Business Development Manager, Postharvest Quality, Wageningen University explained that growers have a lot of challenges to deal with including better packaging, pesticides, and social issues. Consumers want more convenience, year-round availability, and more online shopping. “There are more demands on the growers and more restrictions, they also have to deal with climate change – more extreme conditions. It is now more important that ever to have collaboration in the cold chain.”


Franklin Ginus: “Overall COVID has affected us but it has also created opportunities and a bigger demand for healthy eating. People are more aware about food safety especially in China. It has also highlighted the importance of employee safety.”

Franklin said COVID has also put pressure on prices because when China was closed volumes were diverted to European and US markets and this is still the case, prices are still under pressure, but costs have increased.

Michel Jansen: “As an industry we have to be flexible. We started working from home and are still doing so. IT systems have made it possible; we would not have thought we could have done this a year ago.” There are problems in harvesting, packing, congestion at the ports and many delays through the chain, according to Michel. “We have coped, there have been price increases, but we have coped. There is less food service but more retail sales so for us overall it’s the same but it’s not so good for those in the food service side.”

Franklin adds that flexibility in the whole chain would help a lot also an increase in the speed of handling.

Trends in the market

Franklin Ginus: “Climate change is a big factor in South America along with more disease in the bananas.”

Michel Jansen: “There have been many years of globalisation which have created opportunities but now there is more and more nationalism and protectionism, as an importer this is a concern for us. Brussels is still better than most but it’s getting worse. There are more diseases present but more substances are being banned.”

Matthijs Montsma: “At post-harvest we try to maintain quality, but climate change is affecting that quality. Shelf life may get shorter, so the supply chain needs to get shorter with more communication. We may also see a change in production areas and new varieties which are disease resistant.”







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