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New distribution centre means more control over organic bananas cold chain

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2018-10-18  Views: 11
Core Tip: It has been an extraordinary year for bananas.
“It has been an extraordinary year for bananas. The price for conventional bananas was at a historic high over the first two months. It then imploded to a historic low. Bananas were very cheap in the supermarkets. Consumers opted for cheap conventional bananas rather than organic bananas", says Julie Vermeiren of the banana exporter, Fresh Fruit.
"At the moment, we are in full preparation for the coming year. The annual contracts are being drawn up again. There is nothing new. Supermarkets are trying to buy-in cheap, and we see the demand for organic bananas is still growing fast."

New build
A new distribution center is being built at Fresh Fruit in the Dominican Republic. This construction includes offices. "This new distribution center is being built to be entirely sustainable. Everything will be fully powered by solar panels. There will be 2.000 panels, which are good for 1MW of energy. There will also be containers that will be cooled with clean solar energy", continues Vermeiren. Currently, the full containers are sent to the port immediately. There, they are connected to the main power source until the ship leaves.

"By means of temperature recorders, we established that this system is not only expensive, but also inefficient. The cold chain is interrupted several times for, often, several hours. When the new distribution centre is finished in December, these containers will be cooled using solar energy. This will be done up to the moment they have to be brought to the port. In this way, the cold chain can be controlled much better. This will also have a positive effect on the bananas' shelf life. In addition, the containers will be cooled in an energy-friendly way."

Belgian management

Fresh Fruit is a family-run business, founded in 2009. It was started by Julie Vermeiren in the Dominican Republic. The company's entire management is Belgian. "Our most important markets are England, Scandinavia, Germany, France, and Belgium. We can also see that the trend for organic products is continuing. Sweden is number one when it comes to banana consumption. Here, 60% of the bananas are organic or organic fair-trade. In Germany, the organic share is also growing considerably", continues Julie.

"Nevertheless, this product has not yet reached the stage of maturity. A product that is growing always attracts interest from other parties. Ecuador, as well as Colombia and Peru, has started to focus heavily on organic bananas. The Dominican Republic remains the number one organic banana exporter. We are, however, now getting competition from other countries", says Julie.

Consumer packaging
“At Fresh Fruit, we are committed to quality and sustainability. Currently, we are already packaging a lot of our product in consumer packaging. We do this so the bananas can ripen in the country of arrival. They can then go straight to the supermarkets. We do this to save costs", says Vermeiren. “This is also why we started to build the new distribution center. This is the first distribution center for bananas in the Dominican Republic that is completely cooled and insect-free."

"This is very important for markets such as Europe and the US. There are requirements from our clients regarding food safety and defense. This year, together with one of our clients, we developed a paper tape to package the bananas. This tape is fully recyclable. This makes it much more environmentally friendly than plastic tape or a plastic bag. At the moment, we are also experimenting with biodegradable stickers. This will reduce the use of plastic even more", explains Julie.

"If everything goes to plan, the new distribution center will be up and running by the end of December. All departments and subsidiaries will be housed in one building. This will further improve our efficiency. The new building will also be a one-stop-hub for our growers. They can buy everything they need for cultivation, such as organic fertilizers. They can also get technical support", concludes Julie.


keywords: bananas
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