I recently had cause to take a look through some of the reports for loss assessment surveys we’ve carried out over the last few years for some of our clients in the fresh produce industry. Being struck by the range of fresh produce our surveyors have been asked to inspect, I ended up going a little further and discovered a few interesting facts not only about our business, but about the nature of the trade, distribution and storage of perishable products.
This is taken from a random and anonymous selection of 50 inspection reports:
Those 50 reports covered 24 different products, with the most common products arriving damaged for whatever reason being Melons and Spring Onions. Common high volume items such as Oranges and Tomatoes were also represented, as were Longans - only once, as you might expect. In terms of the split between fruit and veg, we carried out 11 loss assessments on fruit versus 14 on vegetables, so there is no great difference between the apparent vulnerability between the two.
What Can Go Wrong
With a perishable and temperature sensitive group of products such as fresh produce, there are of course all kinds of things that can affect the quality on arrival here in the UK. In our experience, based on this random sample, the most common single defect to watch out for are rots and mould, which together are found during 36% of our loss assessment surveys.
The other quality issues you would expect in fresh produce are represented: age, dehydration, softening and such like. But, it is some of the other reasons that really catch the eye. We have seen one instance of soot covered produce from a store room suffering fire damage. We’ve had peppers arrive smelling of meat from being distributed in a wagon more usually used for meat distribution (complete with meat hooks!). We’ve also been called out as a precaution only to find a perfect container with no quality defects to be found at all. Surely this last is the best possible outcome.
And the most common reason for these defects to be present? That is fairly clear cut, with 65% of all of our surveying calls having either incorrect shipping temperatures or delays in transit as the root cause.
Where Do the Goods Come From
I’ve avoided putting together a league table of the countries of origin of fresh produce we have been asked to survey. It could too easily be interpreted in the wrong way, and of course the most common causes of damage to fresh produce prior to arrival are down to time and temperature in transit and have nothing to do with the country of origin. But it is interesting to know that out of 50 randomly selected reports, I ended up with produce arriving from 18 different countries, with all sides of the globe represented. We are truly in a global fresh produce supply chain, and nothing illustrates that more for me than this map.