Maersk Container Industry eyes African mango trade

Maersk Container Industry eyes African mango trade

A recent test in Ivory Coast shows how West Africa’s mango trade can be extended by special containers that place the fruit in hibernation.
Farmers in Ivory Coast struggle with a mango harvest season that is as short as the fruit is sweet.
“For a four- to six-week week period in April and May, the country is flooded with good mangos, but it ends abruptly when the rainy season starts. From then on, the mango just starts decaying,” said Mathew Shed, container manager in the specialist shipping company Africa Express Line (AEL).
“We were approached in April by Eolis, a CF logistics company, that asked for some kind of smart solution that would keep the fruit delicious and marketable for a longer time,” he said.
The solution turned out to be special reefer containers. With quick help from a container leasing company and a container depot in Antwerp, Belgium, Star Cool containers were upgraded to work with controlled-atmosphere (known as CA) and sent to Ivory Coast.
Star Cool CA reefers adjust O2 and CO2 levels, which in turn keep the fruit’s respiration and ripening under control.
“We knew how Star Cool CA extends the storage life of bananas and avocados. Mangos have similar respiration rates so the success of the mango test is really not a big surprise,” said Shed. “I think there is a new business opportunity for farmers whose excess fruit never makes it to the market in time.”
Anders G Holm from Maersk Container Industry, the manufacturer of Star Cool CA, is delighted.
“Combined competences along the logistics chain can save food and open up business,” said Holm. “I’ll even go so far as to say this could become a mango revolution.”
Five Star Cool CA containers were loaded in May 2014 and then opened one by one over a period of four to nine weeks. Each time, the fruit generally turned out to be in the same condition as when it was loaded. (Source: AEL)
Global production of mangos has doubled in the past 30 years to more than 35 million tonnes, but only about 3% is traded internationally. Fragility is one reason why most mangos are still consumed close to the place of production. (Source: UNCTAD)
“The proportion of mangos exported from West Africa by air is relatively high. Impediments to ocean transport may be restricting the full mango export potential of countries like Senegal or Ivory Coast,” said Derek Brand, maritime advisor at the Seabury Group transportation consultancy.
After five years on the market, more than 25,000 Star Cool refrigeration containers are now equipped with CA. The technology is also used for bananas and avocados, extending the potential travel time from 20 to 45 days.
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