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Revolutionising SA’s post-harvest infrastructure (Part 2)

By Eamonn Ryan

The second speaker at the Cold Chain Refrigeration Logistics and Technology Summit was Floris Visser, CEO of Relog SA. This is part two of a two-part article.

The audience at the Cold Chain Refrigeration Logistics and Technology Summit in Stellenbosch on 22 May 2024.
The audience at the Cold Chain Refrigeration Logistics and Technology Summit in Stellenbosch on 22 May 2024. ©Cold Link Africa

He elucidated the diverse temperature requirements for various food products within the cold chain. From the stringent temperature demands of sushi storage at -60°C, to the delicate balance needed for wine storage, Visser underscored the precision required to maintain product quality and safety throughout the supply chain. He also touched upon the challenges posed by temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products, citing the logistical hurdles encountered during the storage and transport of the Pfizer vaccine, which necessitated ultra-low temperature storage at -80°C.

“One of the most intriguing aspects of the cold chain is its ability to accommodate a wide range of temperature requirements for different products,” Visser remarked. “From perishable foods to pharmaceuticals, each product category demands precise temperature control to ensure optimal quality and safety.”

He further delved into the economic and social implications of food waste within the South African context, citing statistics indicating that 33% of food produced in the country goes to waste. He emphasised the disproportionate impact of food waste on vulnerable populations – particularly schoolchildren reliant on feeding programmes for their daily meals. “By redirecting surplus food to alleviate hunger, the cold chain plays a key role in addressing food insecurity and promoting equitable access to nutrition.

“Efficient cold chain infrastructure is not only vital for preserving food quality but also for combating hunger and promoting food security. By minimising food waste and optimising distribution channels, we can ensure that surplus food reaches those in need, thereby addressing critical social and economic challenges.”

Reflecting on the composition of South Africa’s agricultural economy, Visser highlighted the prevalence of perishable commodities within the sector, with approximately half of all agricultural products requiring cold chain management at some stage of the supply chain. He underscored the importance of robust cold chain infrastructure in facilitating the efficient transport and storage of perishable goods, thereby preserving their quality and extending their shelf life.

“Increasingly, South Africa’s agricultural sector relies on cold chain infrastructure to maintain the freshness and quality of perishable products. From fruits and vegetables to animal products, effective cold chain management is indispensable for optimising the supply chain and minimising post-harvest losses.”

In conclusion, Visser reiterated the imperative of prioritising cold chain infrastructure investments to enhance the resilience and efficiency of South Africa’s agricultural supply chain. By harnessing refrigeration technology to minimise food waste and ensure food security, Flores emphasised the transformative potential of the cold chain in shaping the future of agriculture in South Africa.