The impact of maritime trade on the cherry route

The impact of maritime trade on the cherry route

It is not uncommon that when we think about fruit production our minds immediately go to orchards and cultivation, these are undoubtedly two fundamental points on the route of trade between different countries, however, the perfect scheme has many intertwined stages, being maritime transport one of these, which, in recent years, has had exponential growth and an impact that responds to various factors.

During 2019, refer trade of deciduous fruit reached 21.5 million tons, of which more than 50% (10.6 million tonnes) was via maritime trade, making  this way of transportation key to the market all over the world.

These figures are considerably high when we talk about seasonal fruit, which is exported in very specific periods with high demands for care. An example is what happens in both the northern and southern hemispheres with cherries, where trade is concentrated only in a couple of months, in the latter, particularly in November and December, mainly  during the Chinese New Year.

Time and temperature control are two critical considerations for preserving cherries’ shelf life, and the fruit is extremely sensitive to handling and transport conditions, which needs to be adequate in order to meet the expectations of the markets. Speed reduction and additional transit times may have negative implications for this special niche trade and its competitiveness, something that can be prevented with new technologies, even on the sea trayect. 

On average, countries like Chile, the world’s largest exporter of cherries, depend 100% on shipping. Its arrival in China, one of its largest markets, and the largest importer of the fruit in the world, takes an average of three days to reach its destination by air, and 20 to 25 by sea.  Thus, the importance of its transport method.

And these figures are not definitive. Estimates indicate that global maritime trade in refrigerated containers will continue to grow at an average rate of 3.7% annually until 2024, being the main exporter of perishable items, as indicated by the UNCTAD Assessment of the Impact of the IMO Short-Term GHG Reduction Measure on States.

Thus, one of the biggest challenges includes preservation of the fruit and optimization of time. But why its relevance over other means of transport? Over the years, reefer containers have been penetrating the market surpassing specialized reefer vessels and reaching 87% of the world seaborne perishable reefer cargo.

The control of both temperature and time are two essential elements, and in the case of cherries, specifically, the travel conditions must provide adequate management for their valuation in the marking.

Despite this, there are still exporting countries that do not fully adapt or rather, have been delayed in the application of these methods. As indicated in the study, regulation is one of the main factors when it comes to innovation, either to promote it, or rather as a difficulty. 

“Traditionally, many sections of the global shipping and maritime transportation industry are compliance-led and at times display a lower propensity to innovate compared with other sectors. One can therefore argue that a targeted and structured regulatory process would have a positive impact on innovation and technical change, which would be beneficial to companies and industries, both in cost and productivity terms in the longer term. However, if such regulatory process is designed and implemented inconsistently, it may have adverse impacts not only in terms of missing its regulatory targets, but also inhibiting technological change”, states the document. 

In that sense, as the experts explain, regulation is the starting point, and the implementation of technologies that allow for greater security and reduction of uncertainties in an industry as powerful as agriculture, can guarantee a list of benefits, such as savings, less time, greater production and even environmental care. A win-win scenario.

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