- Packaging is vital to agro export’s success. Produce need to be preserved and protected to reach their destination. This requires using qualitative materials. It is a challenge to many farmers who are looking at the export market. DANIEL ESSIET reports
Fresh produce, such as fresh fish, fruit and vegetables are sought after by many households. Unfortunately, some fresh produce only originate from certain parts of the world and must be transported to other parts. And, with that comes problems, such as quality and freshness of the produce.
For instance, in the horticultural sub-sector, about 30 per cent of the produce is lost inadequate infrastructure and less use of modern post-harvest technologies.
Chief Executive, Anjorin & Atanda Investment Limited, Sunday Anjorin explained that fresh horticultural produce has limited shelf-life ranging from a few hours to a few weeks. Therefore, good packaging is required not only for the preservation and protection, but also for safe transportation during storage and handling.
Concerns are mounting because produce, such as vegetables, fruits, and cut flowers—have grown steadily to become the single largest category in world agricultural trade, accounting for over 20 per cent of such trade in recent years.
On the average, horticultural exports of Sub-Saharan Africa brings in revenue in excess of $2 billion yearly. In view of this, quality packaging has become key in the agro export markets.
Anjorin said packaging plays a crucial role in creating value-added packs, which some importers require. There is also growing concern among consumers for food safety certification and compliance with environmental and ethical standards. Increasing exports and stringent export market requirements have also influenced the packaging trend.
Meeting these requirements presents a challenge. At present, vegetable and fresh produce entrepreneurs focus on exporting the products to Europe, China and Asia.
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Exporters of oranges face challenges too. They have to place them in moulded pulp trays with cavities for individual oranges. Each tray contains about 20/25/30 oranges depending upon the size. About five such trays are placed in a corrugated fibreboard box.
Similarly, the Nigeria Quarantine Service encourage vegetables exporters to pack them in three-ply or five-ply corrugated fiberboard boxes with ventilation holes depending upon the capacity. The capacity of box varies from 5kg to 7kg to 10 kg. Generally, the box is lidded type (0306) but at times for some vegetables RSC (0201) box is also used. Packaging, according to Anjorin, doesn’t just protect and keep fresh vegetables but it tells a story of where it’s from.
Although preservation and protection of products are important, henoted that they are no longer enough as packaging as a front-line ambassador to market and sell products, as well as to mindicate compliance with emerging standards through certification, is coming to the fore.”
Hence, it is important farmers learn and benefit from the exporting advantages that higher-quality packaging brings.
President, National Cashew Association of Nigeria(NCAN),Tola Faseru said the industry is facing new challenges and needs to continue to adapt and upgrade its capabilities.
This is as a result of emerging regulations and standards, as well as health, environment and security concerns, notably in Europe, North America and Japan.
Consequently, creating new and increasing demands on the packaging of agro exports.
For this reason, he advised small business exporters to develop the mindset that they are competing in international markets and packaging is an important part of that competition.
The impact is great on exporters of cashew nuts. Consequently, exporting cashew kernels now requires volume, a large investment in factory, equipment and raw material to achieve international expectations.
The international market buys predominantly full containerloads of cashew kernels.
Buyers in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East purchase vacuum-packaged cashew kernels.Two vacuum-packed 25-pound plastic bags fill one carton; 700 cartons, or 15 MT, fill a 20-footcontainer. While there are 26 grades of cashew kernels sold on the international market, buyers mostlyaccept containers with one tosix different grades. The26 grades are based on size of the kernel (number of kernels per pound): alow number, such as 180, indicates largekernels, and a high number, such as 450, indicatessmall kernels,
The normal packaging used for the export of kernels is air-tight cans of 25lbs (11.34 kg) weight capacity. The packaging material needs to be impermeable, since cashew kernels are subject to rancidity and go stale very quickly.
He explained that the quality of cashew kernels that is exported depends onthe quality ofthe raw nuts.
For this reason, he said the exporters monitor the process from harvesting to shipment toensure the quality of their raw cashews.
These include ensuring that the nuts is harvested only after they have fallen to the ground,sun-dried immediately after harvesting and that during the drying process (which normally lasts two to three days), the nutdensity should not exceed 20 kg per square metre.
He said exporters of raw cashew nuts must ship in jute bags.
Following harvest, he said farmers typically sun dry and bag cashew nuts and store them in their houses in polypropylene bags. The bags, according to him, do not allow adequate air circulation, which is not generally a problem if marketing occurs promptly. But the delay allowed the cashew nuts to become damp and moldy.
The extent of the quality deterioration, he noted, was realised only after shipments that were exported were rejected as below contract standards.
He stressed that deterioration in export crop quality was serious.
He stressed that developing a competitive private sector processing industry would create jobs.
He said raw cashew nuts are not processed in the country.
They are exported to India and Vietnam. In these two countries, the nuts are processed and then sold via international traders to European and North American roaster/salters who then distribute them to consumer markets.
source: The Nations
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