Ahmed El Shall – PAFT

Egyptian exporters switching to plastic pallets

Egyptian growers and exporters have traditionally used wooden pallets for their logistics. However, more and more companies are switching over to the use of plastic pallets, which are more in line with the current industry standards for food health. In the long run, they’re also cheaper.

“We provide both wood chip pallets and durable plastic pallets,” says Ahmed El Shall of the Egyptian packaging manufacturer PAFT. “Our wood chip pallets are cheap single use solutions for logistics to external sites, while our heavy duty plastic pallets are meant for internal logistics. The plastic pallets are more expensive, but they last for up to 7 to 10 years. Most companies that work with citrus or strawberries use these pallets.”

According to Ahmed, the heavy duty plastic pallets are cheaper in the long run than traditional wood pallets. “The traditional wood pallets cost about $12 to $15, but the life time is a couple of months in average. The plastic pallets are priced around $45, but they’ll last a lot longer.”

Transition from wood to plastic
Egypt currently exports about 2 million tons of fresh produce per year. 60% of this produce is sent to Europe. For export to Europe, traditional wooden pallets weren’t up to standards anymore. “Wooden pallets need to be fumigated against insect. The right way to do this is through expensive heat treatments, but most Egyptian companies would opt for insecticides. The use of these toxins is however prohibited in the EU. Though the concentrations that are being used are low, the toxins are definitely harmful in high dosage. Plastic pallets completely circumvent the need for insecticides,” explains Ahmed.

Before the arrival of plastic pallets, wooden pallets were the norm in Egypt. “Ten years ago, Egyptian companies were still using wooden pallets. Some plastic companies in Egypt noticed the use of plastic pallets in the US and the EU and decided to develop their own plastic pallets. These companies were however lacking in experience. They didn’t have the required knowledge of the use of pallets in supply chains and warehousing. So the design / materials for these early pallets did not suit the harsh operating conditions.”

The failed early attempts at plastic pallets lead to many Egyptian growers and exporters to believe that plastic solutions couldn’t work. In order to successfully market its own plastic solutions, PAFT needed to convince these companies of the benefit of plastic pallets. “We really did our homework to learn what kinds of pallets were needed. We investigated what requirements were necessary, what material should be used, what demands are present in the supply chain and what the environmental issues were relevant. We invested a lot in research and design.”

Safer to use
The plastic pallets are made according to the three skid design, which is both compatible with fork lift equipment and manual hand pallet movers. The market for PAFT is the whole of the Middle East. “Our pallets don’t cover 100% of all demand in logistics, but it does cover over 90%,” says Ahmed. “Our target customer is every company with a closed loop logistics system. We started with co-manufacturing especially customized pallets as well as wood chip pallets in the 10th of Ramadan plant. This year we’ve also started a new co-manufacturing facility in Tangier, Morocco."

One of the main challenges for plastic pallets is the risk of damage. Ahmed said that pallets damage easily during the logistics process, such as by being dropped or being hit by forklifts. "Our pallets can now withstand over ten times the number of hits when compared to other materials. We’ve also supported the structure of our pallets with metal bars. Most companies use a racking system. The metal support within the pallets helps to strengthen the pallet. The pallets won’t bend or collapse when they’re racked up, so they’re safer to use.” 

PAFT also provides plastic bins for citrus. These are used for bulk storage and transport. They’re 1 by 1.2 meter in size, with a wall that is 1 meter high. The plastic bins allow for 70% less costs in comparison to wooden bins and last longer as well.”

Company background 
PAFT stands for Packaging And Food Technology. The company is part of a bigger group called SAS, which is also one of Asia's biggest agents for the well known French packaging company Sidel. PAFT was founded in 2011 and consists of several business units. 

For more information:
Ahmed El - Shall 
PAFT (Egypt)
Tel: 0020-1001-232-566 / 002010-22239770

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