The logistics journey of South African Citrus fruit

The citrus trade season in the UK runs every year from May to October, which see's thousands of lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruits come into the UK for the consumer market. London Gateway Port handles over 95% of the citrus trade from South Africa which arrives in temperature controlled refrigerated (reefer) containers.

As a deep-sea port with seamless connections to a pan-European and a global network, London Gateway's market- centric location close to London and the UK's largest distribution hubs, means fruit can get from ship to stores quicker to maintain freshness. As the chosen port for the majority of this trade, companies can also benefit from temperature controlled warehousing facilities at London Gateway's Logistic Park.

Utilising a port- centric warehousing facility to ripen, control and pack perishable goods, like the citrus fruits, allows companies to reduce lead times and thereby increase the freshness and shelf life of the produce.

Like many other products, citrus fruit embarks on a long journey before they reach the consumer kitchen. Speed and freshness are key. Over the coming months we will share details of the typical logistics journey the citrus fruit takes from farming to supermarket.

The citrus fruit's journey is as follows:

1. Fruit picked at source

Citrus fruit is one of the most popular and widely produced fruit types globally - they are highly nutritious to eat or to drink in juice form, together with citrus extracts being used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.

Based on production volumes, citrus fruit is the largest fruit industry in RSA (Republic South Africa), and is largely focussed on the export market. The South African citrus industry is the largest citrus exporter in the Southern Hemisphere and accounts for more than 60% of Southern Hemisphere citrus exports.

South Africa is expected to export a record 143.3 million cartons of citrus fruit to more than 100 countries in 2020, an approximate 13% increase from 2019.

Citrus fruit require warm subtropical temperatures which South Africa provides; the season starts with the harvesting of lemons and ends with harvesting oranges in September, which is by far South Africa’s biggest citrus type accounting for around 60% of exports.

Nigel Jenney, CEO Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) says: "RSA are a key source of fresh produce to the UK and in these challenging times you might expect exports to be lower than normal.

"However, that’s not the case for citrus as we approach peak season volumes are well ahead. The determination and resilience shown from grower to shipper has been exemplary in meeting UK consumers increasing demand for great tasting citrus".

2. Fruit is packaged

Fruit is packed at source and loaded into refrdigered containers (reefers) ready to be transported by sea to the UK.

3. Fruit travels from South Africa to London Gateway

Temperature monitoring is undertaken by vessel crew.

(Transported between 3-4 port including shipping times:

Durban- London- 25 days

Port Elizabeth – London – 23 days

Cape Town – London – 19 days)

4. Arrive at London Gateway Port

Temperature monitoring undertaken by the port.

5. Authority inspection

DEFRA inspection in world class facilities with average turnaround time of one day from landing to cleared for collection.

6. London Gateway Logistics Park

Delivery of fruit to cold store warehouse for storage, quality control and individual packaging for supermarkets.

7. Reefer transport

Fruit is transported on reefer containers on trucks.

8. In-store ready for consume

Citrus fruit arrives at independent retailers/supermarkets.

Source: DP World London Gateway