U.S. exports of fresh fruits grew 4%, to $7.2 billion, in 2021, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Produce in season in the late summer and fall - blackberries, peaches, blueberries, nectarines, raspberries, apples, cranberries, grapes, and pomegranates - constitute $3.1 billion in U.S. exports each year.
In 2021, the top commodities were oranges, apples, grapes, strawberries, and cherries. These fruits move all over the world. Canada is the biggest market in most years, but shippers also transport fruit to Mexico, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
Much goes into keeping these items in an acceptable condition for sale. To prevent these commodities from spoiling on their journey, shippers must navigate a tangled web of international trade regulations and maintain a functioning cold chain.
Here are five things shippers must do to get produce over the border and onto store shelves in optimal condition:
1) Use Appropriate Packaging - Fruit must stay within a specific temperature range for its entire life. And that temperature range is going to differ for different types of fruit. If an item gets too hot or cold, it could be damaged. Using proper insulation and storage containers unique to every shipment is critical. Otherwise, you’re looking at food waste. And we are not fans of food waste.
2) Have a Transportation Plan - Unlike non-edibles; fresh produce has to stay fresh. It has a limited shelf life and can’t sit in a trailer or container for weeks at a time. This means you need a backup plan for when life happens. It’s not enough to have one carrier on call. Be sure to have a plan B (or plan C or D) to keep your produce moving even when hiccups arise.
3) Get Those Forms in Order - Getting any export over a border means, at minimum, having export certificates, bills of lading, proof of origin, and inspection certificates at the ready. It adds to a lot of paperwork, but getting goods through customs is necessary. And speaking of customs…
4) Stay Up to Date on Trade Regulations - International trade is another area rife with details, and getting them right isn’t negotiable for exporters. That means knowing current tariff rates, whether any quotas or other parameters are in place, or even blowback from political events (think: Ukraine-Russia conflicts or new requirements after the United States Mexico Canada Agreement was implemented).
5) Maintain Visibility - At this point, we’ve discussed what you need to work out before your freight ships. But you don’t want to leave anything to chance once your products are on the move. It pays to have a visibility tool that can show you where your goods are, whether they are moving or at rest and if there are any red flags along the way. That way, if something might compromise a shipment, you’ll find out before it’s too late.
Are you overwhelmed yet? If this sounds like a lot to manage, outsourcing logistics to a freight forwarder could be a better option. You aren’t required to handle the nitty-gritty of customs or build your tracking technology in-house. Instead, a logistics specialist, like Able Freight, can take the cold chain and transportation requirements for you!