Well-known plum and nectarine packhouse Banhoek Fruit Packers this year packed lemons for the first time in its 16-year existence, after last year diversifying into pomegranate packing.
Putting pomegranates over the pack line has been good preparation for packing citrus as both are wet tipped and treated with wax. “With the waxing equipment and drying tunnels in place we can now look at packing low chem or no chem application citrus during the winter months of May to October,” notes Ruan van Graan, managing director of the packhouse outside Stellenbosch.
Photos supplied by Banhoek Fruit Packers
“We would like to build relationships with producers and exporters in the Boland area to pack low chem citrus during the 2022 season. Our preliminary capacity is 12,000 bins between May and October and with the big expansion over the past few years, this is the perfect time to increase citrus packing capacity in the Boland.”
Stonefruit & pomegranate packing necessitates low chem citrus on the packline
“There’s a big opportunity for low chem and possibly no chem packing at Banhoek. We primarily use Fludioxonil on our stonefruit and pomegranates. Hard chemicals used on citrus, like TBZ and Imazalil, will leave traces on the packline and are therefore incompatible with stonefruit and pomegranates. We can only use postharvest products registered for all three commodities.”
Plums and nectarines are packed from November until the end of March, pomegranates from February until the end of April, leaving the winter months of May until end-September for citrus, a traditionally quiet period for the packhouse.
Banhoek Fruit Packers pack 50 tonnes of plums and nectarines during a normal day shift on its four lane highspeed roller sizer. Its capacity on pomegranates and citrus is even higher: an average of 65 tonnes of pomegranates and 60 tonnes of lemons were packed per day during the past season. Night shifts, when necessary, could push that up.
The main packline is divided into a wet in-feed with tipping bath, chemical bath and waxing unit (for pomegranates and citrus) and the dry in-feed, exclusively used for stonefruit.
A smaller dedicated packline for prunes runs around 20 tonnes during a shift with any sizing between 28mm and 50mm on the rope and roller sizer.
“We have a precooler coldroom that can accommodate 400 jumbo bins to cool down fruit before packing,” Ruan explains. “Then we have two tunnels, each able to pull 24 pallets of packed export stonefruit down to 0°C, depending on the cultivar. Our static holding room can store 120 packed pallets at the correct loading out temperature.”
It’s not complicated to switch between stonefruit and citrus or pomegranates, or vice versa, he notes, and although it requires good planning and communication, it only takes roughly thirty minutes to do the change-over.
The packhouse’s backup electricity generator ensures uninterrupted packing during South Africa’s recurring loadshedding.
“My purpose for Banhoek Fruit Packers would be to be able to employ our workers from neighbouring Kylemore for 11 months of the year and it feels like this dream is at last finally within reach after five years,” Ruan says. “The producers and exporters that currently pack with us can testify that we always go the extra mile in all that we do.”