CORONAVIRUS

Sweet peppers shipped rather than flown to US as a ‘Covid alternative’

The Covid crisis has virtually cleared the skies of aircraft. Normally speaking, a lot of products are transported as lower deck cargo on board passenger planes. Importers and exporters of fruit and vegetables have been seriously affected by the sudden drop in air freight capacity. In response, some of them have made far-reaching adjustments to their logistics chains. For example, working in partnership with Wim Rodenburg of GroentenFruit Huis, exporters organised successful trial shipments of sweet peppers from the Netherlands to the United States – by sea rather than air.

Fresh Produce Centre

Photo: Fresh Produce Centre

“Normally, parties that want to transport sweet peppers to the US would opt for air freight. But now marine shipping is recognised as a viable alternative,” sees Daco Sol, Logistics, Supervision & Supply Chain programme manager at GroentenFruit Huis. “And it’s great that we can refer to experience gained in other programmes, as well as results from previous research into this product.”

Alternative procedures

Companies and agencies in the port are thinking about how to adapt work processes so they remain practicable. “Of course, this is particularly important for perishable products like fruit and vegetables,” says Sol. “And fortunately, they’ve also started offering alternative procedures for the associated freight documents. Being able to exchange freight documents via a secure connection should be a standard option. We would be very happy to see this trend gaining momentum – particularly now that we’re required to avoid face-to-face interactions.”

During the import of fruit and vegetables, the original documents – phytosanitary certificates confirming that a shipment is free of specific diseases and insect pests, for example – are despatched separately by air. But following the slowdown in aviation as a result of the Covid outbreak, the original documents no longer arrived in time for the inspections. Fortunately, the authorities have remedied this situation by setting up a temporary procedure based on photocopies of the relevant certificate. The European Commission has agreed to this provisional arrangement and has ruled that the procedure may be used for the time being for produce entering the EU. However, the importer should be able to submit the original certificates at a later date.

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