Global food trends and reefer technology

By Ah Huat Goh
, General Manager, Global Marketing and Service, Reefer Container Department, Daikin first published in Splash 24/7, 14th March 2018 The world’s population is becoming more aware…

By Ah Huat Goh
, General Manager, Global Marketing and Service, Reefer Container Department, Daikin first published in Splash 24/7, 14th March 2018

The world’s population is becoming more aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. As disposable incomes increase and people become more conscious of choosing nutritious food, rich in minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants, the demand for so-called “superfoods” has skyrocketed.

According to Euromonitor, China now consumes 40% of the world’s fruit and vegetables. Growing incomes are fuelling a willingness to pay more for higher quality, healthy foods. And the enormous purchasing power of China’s middle class alone is having a significant impact on global food trends, which in turn drives advances in cargo care and reefer technology.

In recent years, negotiations and free trade agreements between countries are allowing more cargo to flow across the globe; a trend that looks set to continue. And to support this, reliable reefer technology will remain essential. Certain sensitive perishables require controlled atmosphere (CA) transportation to travel long distances by sea. By slowing down the ageing process that food and other perishable products undergo during transit, CA allows them to be transported in better condition for longer periods of time, extending shelf life.

UN trade figures show that between 2010 and 2016, China’s avocado imports, for example, increased from 1.9 tonnes to 25,000 tonnes. This expanding appetite for superfoods has a significant impact on exports from supplying countries.

Agricultural exports are big business for South American countries. Peru, for example, has an agriculture-based economy and produces a wealth of superfoods like avocados, pomegranates, and blueberries – all the focus of growing global food trends. The country has had a free trade agreement with the Chinese since 2010 and is allowed to export produce such as avocados, blueberries, grapes, and asparagus to mainland China. The barriers to exporting fruit and vegetables are steadily breaking down with more fruits, such as pomegranates, being negotiated. Peru also has a trade agreement with Japan which allows it to export avocados, with blueberries now also under discussion.

Thanks to close cooperation between the Australian and Chinese governments, Australia is another country that is expanding its fruit exports. The China-Australia free trade agreement was implemented in 2015 and by January 2018 the tariff on most types of fruit has reduced from 10% to 2%. A series of new protocols for some stonefruits, cherries, citrus, and table grapes has made exporting these products easier and faster, opening up a new market for many growers.

The supply of high-quality fruit and vegetables at affordable prices across long distances relies upon reliable reefer technology. Daikin’s new Active CA technology is the only active – rather than passive – technology on the market. In addition to high respiring cargo, with Active CA, it is now possible to transport products that are generally considered difficult to transport under passive CA, due to their low respiration rates. By reducing the oxygen level without relying on cargo respiration, Active CA can be used regardless of voyage length and to transport the broadest spectrum of cargo; from leafy vegetables, blueberries, cherries and lychees with a low respiration rate, to produce with a high respiration rate, such as avocados, bananas, and cut flowers.

Also essential is the cold treatment process which kills all living fruit flies, eggs, and possible larvae in, or on fruits and vegetables to protect the importing country from insects that are alien to it. For example, limiting the spread of Citrus Black Spot, which is caused by the false codling moth, a small insect that is originally from sub-Saharan Africa and that feeds on citrus and stone fruit. Featured as standard functionality on Daikin reefer containers for many years, cold treatment is achieved by maintaining a constant, uninterrupted low temperature for a fixed period. The period of time is different in each country and is agreed by export and import countries. Measured by several probes recording temperature and duration, various import countries have their own protocol established for acceptable temperature and duration parameters.

As global populations and average salaries grow, the reefer segment continues to expand. New advances in reefer technology are enabling the carriage of new cargoes on diversified routes to meet the demands of global food trends. It is this technology that is providing both shippers and shipping lines with an opportunity to provide new services and added value to their customers, which in today’s market represents a bright spot for the container market.