Skycargo delivering for perishable food producers

Emirates SkyCargo Aircraft Brand Freighter med res

Australia’s advanced logistics is helping perishable producers get a leg-up in the Middle Eastern Market.

For Wade Bollard, Export Manager of CT Freight, getting his customers’ product to the growing Middle Eastern market is a race against time.

Australian lamb is the latest fashion in that part of the world, and the Middle East is one of our most rapidly growing export markets. In addition to the inherent challenges of transporting lamb overseas, when exporting to a largely Muslim country a few additional challenges emerge.

“A number of our customers have specific requirements about when products such as meat can be consumed,” explained Bollard. “This means keeping our product secure at an appropriate temperature and making sure that it arrives at its destination within 72 hours of us delivering it.”

For these prime Middle Eastern markets, meat must be consumed or salted within a limited time frame from slaughter for it to be considered halal. From the moment an animal is killed, Bollard’s customers are relying on his speedy delivery to ensure their eagerly awaiting clientele can consume these products.

Bollard isn’t alone in needing consistent, speedy delivery of perishable goods. Australia’s produce is gaining an international reputation for its quality. Greg Johnson, Cargo Manager Australia for Emirates SkyCargo, has seen first hand how consumers globally are gaining a taste for fresh Australian perishables. In 2016 Emirates SkyCargo exported more than 40,000 tonnes of perishables from Australia, including more than 16,000 tonnes of meat.

EKSC Freighter Loading 2 med res

“Consumers around the world are becoming accustomed to high quality fruit and vegetables produce, irrespective of the season,” he said. “We’re seeing this trend in line with hospitality as well, with restaurants offering perishables that need to be shipped by air. Although it may seem that the world is getting smaller everyday, physically it’s not. The logistical challenges aren’t changing.”

Australian exporters, however, are gaining a major competitive advantage thanks to the development of some of the most sophisticated logistical services available on the planet. Although the world isn’t shrinking, services like Emirates SkyFresh – launched in April – are cutting out the geographical barriers that used to limit Australian producers.

“We’ve recognise that the key to our growth is our customers’ growth,” said Johnson. “What we’ve done is develop a range of products and solutions to meet market demands, and they come under the umbrella of SkyFresh.”

The two main logistical challenges that make up getting fresh produce overseas are time and temperature. On the temperature front, Emirates has put together a number of services and products to create a completely unbroken cool chain. Here, three levels of service Emirate SkyFresh, Emirates SkyFresh Breathe and Emirates SkyFresh Active have been designed to meet the levelled needs of their client (see breakout box).

For the SkyFresh Breathe service, Johnson said Emirates is especially proud of its Ventilated Cool Dolly. Possibly the first of its kind in the industry, the Cool Dolly maintains a constant temperature and has a ventilation system to allow it to bring in fresh air from outside.

“The dollies are set to the right temperature while they are waiting for the planes to land,” he explained. “They can fit a complete aircraft pallet, so the perishables are not exposed to the weather.”

When the cargo lands in Dubai, quick ramp access brings it to the Cargo Mega Terminal (CMT) with independently controlled chambers that can vary in temperature, depending on the product.

On the time front, ground staff give the fresh produce quick ramp access and prioritised ground handling. One advantage that Emirates holds above its competition, Johnson explained, is the fact that the airline’s full fleet of aircrafts is wide bodied, and can fit a wide-bodied pallet. This is a major leg up over other services, that will often dismantle pallets to fit them onto smaller aircrafts for the last leg of their journeys.

Thanks to this innovation, Johnson says SkyFresh can deliver fresh produce overnight to the Middle Eastern market.

“Our flights leave every evening, and arrive the next morning in Dubai at around 5:30am – 6am. From there, the goods can be cleared and delivered locally in two to three hours – that’s next day delivery,” he said.

Johnson said this advantage is particularly helpful for Australian producers. Although the nature of our market means we can’t compete on price, we can stay ahead on freshness.

“Australian producers are competing with South American producers, we’re seeing it now with fruit and vegetables. Their costs are a lot lower, but thanks to our logistics, our products are much fresher than what these competitors can provide,” said Johnson.

Johnson advised interested exporters who haven’t yet discovered the Middle Eastern market to start looking.

“There is a big expat community in Dubai. It’s turned into a major trading port. Most of our Australian goods are not easily produced locally – things like beef, lamb, and cheese,” he said.

“Australians can really compete on quality. Thanks to these temperature controlled containers, we can pride ourselves on serving this market while preserving quality.”   

Emirates SkyCargo Cool Chain Image 1