The fruit and vegetable sector in Spain is an economic activity with a strong weight in production, exports and employment in the primary sector.
The transport of fruit and vegetables is one of the strictest in terms of current regulations for perishable foodstuffs. Fruit and vegetables must reach their final destination in perfect condition, so the points established by current legislation must be taken into account. There are several mandatory conditions regarding transport and hygiene, as well as temperature: the creation of a ‘temperature-controlled’ transport environment is essential to guarantee their perfect condition during the transport of fruit and vegetables.
Regulations on the transport of fruit and vegetables
The transport of fruit and vegetables is governed by Royal Decree 1202/05, which establishes that the conditions laid down must be complied with from the place of loading to the place of destination and in all the movements and changes that they undergo during the process in order to guarantee the quality of the food throughout the whole process.
One of the most important points of regulation in the transport of fruit and vegetables is the ‘Agreement on the international carriage of perishable goods and on special vehicles used in transport’, which is summarised in the acronym ATP. This agreement specifies the requirements to be met by vehicles and their control mechanisms. It establishes the maximum temperatures to which products must be subjected during loading, unloading and transport.
What do I need to transport fruit and vegetables?
The transport of fruit and vegetables requires great efficiency and organisation. These are fresh products and each variety has very different requirements, so it is very important to find the perfect fruit and vegetable transport company that meets all the requirements and needs for the correct preservation of the product.
At Antonio Marco we have a professional team with extensive experience and knowledge in the transport of fruit and vegetables, so that the food does not spoil during the transport or storage process and is preserved in perfect condition from the time the fruit and vegetables are picked until they reach their destination.
Optimising the process is fundamental for the preservation of fruit and vegetables in perfect conditions, which is why it is necessary to follow a series of steps that will help to achieve perfect transport conditions for fruit and vegetables.
Vehicles used for the transport of fruit and vegetables must have the ATP identification plate, which makes them suitable for the loading of perishable goods.
As the agreement stipulates that the transport of perishable goods must meet specific conditions, vehicles are divided into 4 land transport classes:
- Isothermal vehicles: Trucks with insulated box walls, from the floor to the roof and the door. This controls the temperature exchange between the inside and outside of the vehicle.
- Refrigerated vehicles: This is another type of isothermal vehicle, allowing the temperature inside the trailer to be lowered and maintained throughout the journey.
- Heated vehicles: Isothermal vehicle which, instead of producing cold, produces heat. It maintains the temperature for a period of 12 hours at a constant temperature of 12ºC.
- Refrigerated vehicles: Controls and maintains the temperature inside the trailer. The temperature can vary between 12ºC and -20ºC.
The importance of packaging
The packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables requires a fast and agile process.
Fruit and vegetables are very sensitive to sudden movements, which is why packaging and containers play an important role in the transport of the products. Various options can be used to store and transport fruit and vegetables.
- Standard boxes: a common type of packaging, which is presented as a very resistant transport alternative to protect fruit and vegetables, as well as favouring stacking.
- Palletainer: Recommended for the transport of fruit and vegetables in the same container and in large quantities. We are talking about a corrugated cardboard box that facilitates protection.
- Corrugated cardboard packaging: Designed with curves in order to adjust much better to each type of fruit. However, it is not very suitable for very large transport.
- Plastic box: In recent years, supermarkets have opted in favour of boxes from leading suppliers such as Europool and IFCO. This trend has been often imposed by large supermarkets. Producer’s associations complained not only about the imposition but also about the brand to be used.
When dealing with such delicate foods as fruit and vegetables, it is very important that they retain all their properties and that they are at an optimum and constant temperature. One of the most important aspects when transporting fruit and vegetables is not to break the cold chain.
The cold chain must be perfectly respected whether in production, storage, transport or in the purchase and sale of fruit and vegetables.
Meeting delivery deadlines
As mentioned above, fruit and vegetables are perishable foodstuffs, so it is important that there is great agility in all the processes involved in their transport and storage.
At Antonio Marco we have great coordination between all the parties involved in this process and it is fully automated. In this way, we can guarantee that the fruit and vegetables arrive at their destination in optimum condition.
Technology on your side
In addition to the essential points during the transport of fruit and vegetables, such as the cold chain, delivery times, packaging, etc., other points must also be taken into account. Other points to be taken into account are:
- Temperature sensors in vehicles; we need to trace all temperature during origin and destination.
- Route design and control for a fast and agile journey. Intermodality is currently enabling many advances in this.
- Vehicle location in real time, nowadays, we are no longer talking about pure and simple geolocation. The tools have come a long way, with companies now linking FMS information with their TMS, as well as taking a leap forward with Big Data to solve operations team problems.
At Antonio Marco we know that the transport of fruit and vegetables has very specific conditions, so our technology is on our customers’ side.
Temperature for the transport of fruit and vegetables?
Two of the main factors for the correct transport of fruit and vegetables are temperature and humidity.
The most effective and widely used means of transport for this type of perishable products is by land. Maintaining an adequate atmosphere is key to keeping them in good condition.
At Antonio Marco we have refrigerated lorries that allow us to control the conditions of the fruit and vegetables in perfect conditions.
The temperature established for the transport of fruit and vegetables varies according to the product being transported. Generalities found in the transport of various products: aromatic herbs at 4 degrees, 5-6 degrees, citrus between 8-10 degrees, stone fruit at about 4 degrees, and broccoli at 2 degrees, among other products.
What do I need to store fruit and vegetables?
The storage of fruit and vegetables is a key element in extending the shelf life of these goods. These are fresh products and each variety has very different requirements, so it is very important to find the perfect logistics company that can provide the customer with everything they need for the storage of fruit and vegetables, meeting all the requirements and needs for the proper preservation of these goods.
At Antonio Marco we have a long history in the preservation of fruit and vegetables. Antonio Marco has been involved in the logistics sector for more than 20 years, providing a service to its customers that goes beyond pure distribution.
Optimising the process is fundamental for the preservation of fruit and vegetables in perfect conditions. It is important to follow a series of requirements in order to guarantee the correct storage of fruit and vegetables for our customers.
Types of warehouses
We can find three types of warehouses, the majority of fruit requires temperature and humidity controlled storage. Since we are talking about products, the vast majority of which have a shelf life of less than two months, incorrect storage can greatly accelerate the ripening cycles, as well as altering the conditions of the products for their subsequent sale. With them, logistics warehouses have a lot of responsibility with the stored goods.
- Cold storage: This is the type of storage that allows us to conserve fruit and vegetables in a temperature-controlled environment, where cold generation is needed to lower the ambient temperature.
- Frozen storage: A storage system where the goods are kept at a negative temperature. The temperature usually ranges between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius negative. There are several types of frozen storage, such as deep frozen storage, which reaches temperatures below minus 25 degrees Celsius.
- Dry storage: A minority type of storage for fresh products, those that allow the control of humidity and radiation allow the storage of some tubers such as sweet potatoes, which do not require a cold storage for their conservation.
The importance of the packaging and the base
The packaging of fruit and vegetables is key to their storage. Depending on the packaging, as well as the bases, different types of stacking are possible. From the storage of field goods in a 6 or 8 high Valencian box, through the small plastic box, to the big bag, which could be stacked in a complex way if it is not produced on a shelf.
Various options can be used to store fruit and vegetables.
First of all, we should differentiate between field and packaged fruits and vegetables:
In the field:
- Valencian boxes: these are mainly used for citrus fruit and are usually a 25kg box. Pallets are usually stacked 6 or 8 high.
- Standard boxes: a common type of packaging, which is presented as a very resistant transport alternative to protect fruit and vegetables, as well as favouring stacking. Also known as the classic wooden box.
- Cardboard pallet: Recommended for the transport of fruit and vegetables in the same container and in large quantities. We are talking about a corrugated cardboard box that facilitates protection.
- Plastic or wooden boxes: these are used for field goods. In recent years, plastic has been gaining ground over wood due to the growth of rental companies, as well as its durability.
- Wooden crate: The famous classic export crate in Europe before the advent of plastic in fruit and vegetable packaging.
- Plastic crates: This is the segment that continues to be prioritised by the large supermarkets for freshly packed products. IFCO and Europool are currently winning the battle against the other suppliers and are in a dominant position in this segment.
- Cardboard box: We see it in the wide range of fruit and vegetables for export from Spain to other destinations in Europe. Then we have the 18 kg import box, this format is usual for citrus imports.
All this type of packaging is positioned on a base better known as a pallet. Within this base we find different sizes, in the transport and storage of fruit and vegetables we usually find two sizes: European pallet and large pallet or fruit bowl.
- European pallet: measures 80 cm wide by 120 cm long, the best known brand in this size is EPAL. And then we have the CHEP, blue in colour and with a different management.
- Large pallet or fruit pallet: measures 100cm wide by 120cm long. This pallet is usually of lower quality and mainly intended for fruit and vegetable markets. It is a lower quality pallet, also known colloquially as a pallet to lose.
Traceability and Technology to scale up the warehouse
One of the most crucial elements in the storage of fruit and vegetables is the traceability of the stored goods at all times. The key point is not only to know what happens to the goods from the moment they are received until they are consigned, but also where they come from and where they are going.
What do we do at Antonio Marco to control traceability?
As mentioned above, traceability is key, but maintaining product quality according to our customers’ specifications is even more important. For the control of the cold chain at all times in our cold store:
- Temperature sensors in the pre-chambers as well as in the cold rooms..;
- Design and control of the pallet at all times. This means that we track each pallet from its entry and location at all times, registering internal movements to know which product it is surrounded by.
- All this would not be possible without the Warehouse Management System (WMS). It allows us to record, interact and, above all, interpret all the information about what happens in the warehouse.
At Antonio Marco we know that the fruit and vegetable warehouse requires very special attention at all times, we understand that the product is 100% of the business value of our client and we do everything we can to be up to the task.
Temperature for fruit and vegetable storage?
As mentioned above, factors such as temperature and humidity are key in the storage of fruit and vegetables.
At Antonio Marco we have dedicated cold stores to maintain the temperature demanded by our customers. These allow us to control the conditions of the fruit and vegetables in perfect condition.
Therefore, once stored, air must circulate between the products to keep them in perfect condition.
There are two types of fruit: climacteric and non-climacteric, so the transport conditions must be adapted to the type of fruit and vegetables.
Climacteric: Fruits and vegetables that can be harvested green as they continue their ripening process once harvested.
Peach, apricot, banana, mango, papaya, avocado, plum, apple, tomato, kiwi, watermelon, persimmon and pear.
Non-climacteric: They should be harvested when they are almost ready to eat as they do not ripen once harvested.
Cherries, raspberries, grapes, olives, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, blackberries, pineapples, blueberries, strawberries, pumpkins, pomegranates, grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges and mandarins, among others.
Spanish fruit and vegetable exports by road
94.1% of Spanish fruit and vegetable exports are exported by road, with lorries being the main means of transport. Specifically, refrigerated lorries transport 5.4 million tonnes of vegetables and greens abroad on the one hand and 7.2 million tonnes of fruit on the other. Cost, speed, the adaptability of this means of transport to the needs of production and marketing, and the fact that the main destination for Spanish exports is Europe, are the main reasons why lorries continue to be the main means of transport to reach the main markets such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
In Spain, according to Fepex, the autonomous communities that export the most are: Andalusia, followed by the Valencian Community, Murcia and Catalonia.
In terms of destinations, 94% of Spanish exports went to the EU + UK in 2021.
At Antonio Marco we seek to facilitate business and food export options as much as possible, and we make our team of professionals available to companies that need them in order to ensure that fruit and vegetable exports in Spain continue to increase.