龙8娱乐app下载报道Cold Chain Technologies Expanding Global Produce Sourcing_龙8娱乐app下载官网资讯

blueberries

Thanks to a range of 鈥渃ool鈥 technologies, global trade in produce is booming. Here鈥檚 how it works.

Next time you spoon up a mouthful of blueberries, consider how they came to land in your bowl.

Native to North America, blueberries are now cultivated in 27 countries worldwide. The U.S. is by far the biggest producer, generating more than half the world鈥檚 supply. But Canada, Peru, Mexico, and Spain are also top producers, according to the UN鈥檚 Food and Agriculture Organization, with output in Peru alone leaping from zero in 2010 to more than 52,000 metric tons in 2017鈥攁lmost half the size of the entire global market in 2001鈥攖o meet rising worldwide demand. So great is America鈥檚 appetite, in fact, that the U.S. actually imports more fresh and frozen berries than it exports, with 50 percent of them coming from Chile between November and February.

Yes, we rely on far-flung nations to supply us with our local specialty produce. Why? What makes the global sourcing of specialty crops possible, let alone desirable?

Big numbers

Horticulture鈥攆ruits, vegetables, and flowers鈥攖urns out to be a significant revenue generator for countries worldwide. In 2017, it accounted for $220 billion of the $1.2 trillion global agriculture trade. And because berries and other fruits account for more than half the value of this segment ($114 billion), countries have stepped up their cultivation and production of these specialty crops for export markets. Worldwide blueberry production alone has nearly tripled since 2000, from 211,000 metric tons to almost 600,000, thanks to the fruit鈥檚 鈥渟uperfood鈥 status and long shelf life.

In short, big U.S. producers profit by selling their blueberries abroad and allowing imports to answer unmet domestic demand. But that begs the logistical question: how is it that fresh produce can travel across oceans and remain appealing as well as affordable?

Technological advances in storage and distribution during the past 40 years have extended food鈥檚 shelf life while lowering its transit costs. Growers now chill produce within hours of harvest to temperatures just above freezing. Those temperatures are maintained in a so-called cold chain from farm storage facilities to supermarket shelves, thanks to insulated packaging and 鈥渞eefers,鈥 or refrigerated containers, that move goods via truck, rail, and ship. For long-distance travel, refrigerated containers of produce are infused with ozone (O3) or a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, creating an environment that slows down the respiration, or exchange of gases, that leads to further ripening, mold, and decay.

So effective is this unbroken cold chain in preserving freshness that perishables like blueberries can make a 20-day transoceanic journey (what it takes for a container ship to travel from Chile to California), spend another week traveling to regional warehouses and wholesalers, and still arrive in stores with two weeks of additional shelf life available for the consumer.

Supersize me

And what brought about these produce-distribution technologies? The evolution of the supermarket, says Tim Woods, an extension professor at the University of Kentucky who specializes in agribusiness management and marketing. Until the late 1970s, he explains, grocers in developed economies were strictly local or regional entities that relied on a network of wholesale terminal markets for their fresh produce.

But as the increased use of refrigerators and freezers at home encouraged consumers to buy and store more food, grocers got the signal to expand. The bigger they got, the more important it became for them to control their supply chains. So they started setting up their own regional distribution centers, cutting out the middleman wholesaler in order to lower costs and increase efficiencies. 鈥淎ll the innovations we see in transportation, refrigeration, and dedicated supply chains,鈥 says Woods, 鈥渉ave been driven by national food retailers needing to get produce from farm to consumer quickly and cheaply.鈥

blueberries
blueberries
As the increased use of refrigerators and freezers at home encouraged consumers to buy and store more food, grocers got the signal to expand.

In turn, the sheer volume of perishables purchased by big retailers has dramatically altered the supplier landscape. Giant retailers鈥 success depends on having a constant supply of produce that complies with stringent food-safety standards and whose every movement and handler can be traced, lest there be an outbreak of food-borne illness. So the Walmarts of the world contract with giant producers, even if they鈥檙e located in other countries. When the fixed costs of wholesale infrastructure are spread over a huge volume of goods, distribution costs dwindle to insignificant levels.

鈥淚t costs a small grower in Cincinnati more per pound to bring fresh berries 90 miles to Lexington than for a reefer to bring 40,000 pounds of fruit here from Watsonville, California,鈥 Woods explains. 鈥淐alifornia growers participating in these large supply chains have no distribution-cost barrier. And the same is true of growers even farther afield. Economies of scale have accelerated global sourcing.鈥

blueberries
blueberries
鈥淚t costs a small grower in Cincinnati more per pound to bring fresh berries 90 miles to Lexington than for a reefer to bring 40,000 pounds of fruit here from Watsonville, California.鈥 鈥擳im Woods, University of Kentucky

Labor relations

Finally, there is a difference in labor costs between countries like the U.S. and Chile鈥攑articularly for produce like strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers, which still have to be harvested by hand. The U.S. imports fully a third of its fruit and about a quarter of its vegetables, despite having the capacity to produce them domestically, says Woods, because inexpensive labor abroad makes it pointless to invest in U.S. capacity. 鈥淭he labor differential is what supercharges global sourcing,鈥 he says.

This doesn鈥檛 mean there isn鈥檛 a robust domestic market for U.S. blueberry growers to tap, however. In season, says Ken Chilvers, a small producer in Glasgow, Kentucky, local demand is so great for his top-grade highbush berries that he cannot keep up with it, even though he charges twice as much as Walmart.

鈥淚t鈥檚 all about ripeness,鈥 Chilvers says, explaining that once a berry is picked, its sugar production ceases. 鈥淏erries from Chile are tart, because those growers can鈥檛 wait until the fruit is ripe to pick and ship it. I can, because mine will be delivered tomorrow to my customers鈥攚ho鈥檒l pay double the price to get that sweetness they can鈥檛 get elsewhere.鈥

Together, these consumer habits鈥攐ccasionally paying more for local varieties but usually relying on cheap imports鈥攅xplain why the global food system is here to stay: its supply chains are just too efficient to dismantle. And they鈥檙e getting more efficient by the day. 鈥淎mazon can get you limes for your Coronas in a matter of hours,鈥 says Woods. 鈥淚f you can spend a few minutes online and get a good-quality product at an affordable price delivered to your doorstep, why wouldn鈥檛 you?鈥

He adds, 鈥淲e鈥檙e not turning back, that鈥檚 for sure.鈥

Further reading

鈥10 Proven Health Benefits of Blueberries.鈥 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-blueberries

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