Between September and April, LBP Rotterdam regularly gets blueberries from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Particularly from Chile, large volumes are coming to Maasdijk. Last year, LBP started using a new packing line for blueberries. “We noticed a need among shippers and importers for a packing line on location. Demand for different packagings is also increasing. With these lines, we give the South American shippers more flexibility on the European market,” says Anton Filippo of LBP. “The exporters can now ship the blueberries individually, and at the moment they’re sold, we sort and package them according to the client’s wishes.”
Sorting on softness, colour and size
Anton is looking forward to the new season. “We mainly used the first year as a learning year. The line was altered here and there, and we are going into the new season with optimism. More and more people are becoming aware of our packing line, and I expect it will be used considerably more in the future.” During the season, the packing line runs six days a week, around the clock. The blueberries are sorted by colour, size and softness, and then packaged on demand, in 125 gramme, 150 gramme or 170 grammes punnets, and other packagings. The packing line is able to process about a tonne of blueberries per hour.
Expansion of services
The import of overseas fruit to Europe is under pressure. Exporters are moving to new markets, like Asia. Local economies are getting stronger, but the stricter phytosanitary rules also don’t make LBP’s job any easier. “You won’t get by with traditional expediting alone,” he explains. “That’s why, in addition to things like handling air freight and sea containers, clearance, quality control and storage, we also focus increasingly on services with added value, like the previously mentioned packing line for blueberries, but also ripening chambers for exotics.”
Ready to eat continues to grow
Last year, LBP started using eight ripening chambers to ripen mangoes, avocados, kiwis and papayas. “The ready to eat concept has really taken off, and ripening facilities are needed for that.” Anton explains that ripening fruit requires a certain expertise. “You’re dealing with all sorts of factors and variables, and not all fruit is suitable for ripening.” The measure of ripening done by LBP is determined per client, and depends on the order. If the fruit needs to be in store two days later, it can be ripened ready to eat, but it’s also possible to merely ‘trigger’ the fruit, placing it in a chamber for a night at a high temperature, setting in motion the ripening process. “In principle, it shouldn’t be necessary anymore for a consumer to leave the fruit in the bowl for a week before they can eat it. In the future, we will move toward a system where the client determines the degree of ripeness of the fruit when it’s offered in stores. Especially in Scandinavia, they are already very advanced with ready to eat. Their experience of buying and eating fruit is very different, but the rest of Europe will follow quickly,” Anton concludes.