Did you know that the majority of avocados grown in South Africa are exported by sea. Considering that the main production regions of Limpopo and Mpumalanga are far from any of the coastal seaports, the harvests first need to be road-freighted to the cargos. This means that the fruit need to first survive the bumpy road journeys and then the ship rides.
The first thing that exporters do to maintain quality is to always transport firm, unripe fruit. Generally, by keeping temperatures cool, controlling atmospheric gases and synthetic sprays to delay ripening are used to keep the avocados firm.
At the packhouse, the avocados are dipped into a chlorine wash to remove dirt and debris from the fruits surface. The avocados are then waxed. This prevents moisture loss and gives the fruit a glossy sheen. After the avocados have been graded, they are carefully packed into cartons. It is important that the cartons be able to absorb excess moisture, have adequate ventilation and be able to bear the weight of the heavy fruit. Recycled, perforated liners can also be inserted to prevent bruising and increase air flow.
The cartons are loaded on to pellets. The pellets should be disease and pest free. The pellets are stacked and ready for transport.
The pellets are loaded into refrigerated trucks for the journey to the markets or seaports, this is known as Refrigerate Motor Transport. Pellets should not be overloaded to prevent air flow but be packed close enough to minimize fruit movement.
At the ports, the pellets should quickly be loaded into refrigerated storage on the cargo vessels.
The importance of refrigerated transport means that in order to transport high quality avocados, the cold chain must not be broken between the packhouse and final export destination. This way, the fruit can arrive firm, unbruised and healthy even weeks or months after harvest.