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Reefer trends in the African market

Changing reefer trends are opening up opportunities for African exporters, as well as safeguarding cargoes and reputations, explains Katsuhiro Tetsuya, director of Daikin Reefer.

As global populations and average salaries grow, and the demand for food from overseas increases, the reefer segment continues to expand. Thanks to temperature-controlled refrigerated containers, products can go further and consumers can enjoy products from all over the world. In today’s depressed market, reefer capability provides both shippers and shipping lines an opportunity to deliver new services and added value to their customers. The flexibility of reefer containers also presents greater opportunities to smaller growers and exporters, as they are now better able to compete with the big multinationals that have their own dedicated ships.

DAIKIN001 web
Controlled atmosphere (CA) is steadily gaining interest in Africa.
Image credit: Daikin

South Africa is Africa’s largest exporter, with grapes and citrus representing its main exports, most of which is bound for Asia, Europe, and the United States. In the global citrus market, Spain has the greatest market share of 25%, followed by South Africa with 17%, and then Egypt with 16%.

All exports are strictly controlled and checked by the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB), South Africa’s official export certification agency for the perishable produce industry. PPECB protocols define the transport temperature of products, which are dictated by the importing country to prevent the importation of quarantine pests.

Cold treatment
The cold treatment process kills all living fruit flies, eggs, and possible larvae in or on fruits and vegetables, to protect the importing country from insects that are alien to it. For example, it limits the spread of Citrus Black Spot, which is caused by the false codling moth, a small insect originally from sub-Saharan Africa that feeds on citrus and stone fruit.

Cold treatment has featured as a standard functionality on Daikin reefer containers for many years. It is achieved by maintaining a constant, uninterrupted low temperature for a fixed period. The period is different in each country and is agreed by export and import countries. Measured by several probes recording temperature and duration, various import countries have their own protocol established for acceptable temperature and duration parameters. Japan, for example, has very strict guidelines on this, stipulating that if the shipment temperature and period do not meet the criteria, it will not be accepted by the government.


Thanks to temperature-controlled refrigerated containers, products can go further and consumers can enjoy products from all over the world.


Reliability is therefore vital, especially in challenging economic times. If the reefer container is not functioning correctly, then the cargo will almost certainly be damaged or delayed. If the machinery is not operating correctly, then cold treatment will have to be reset and the container cannot be opened until the specified treatment time has been completed, causing delays. The commercial risk of damaged or delayed goods, in addition to the reputational damage from a lack of reliability, is high.

Investing in the cold chain
Daikin has investigated the cold chain over the years, for example, visiting a pineapple field in West Africa to experience first-hand the whole process from field and cleaning to reefer and arrival, to gain a detailed understanding of what is required.

Pineapples and bananas are West Africa’s main exports. The Ivory Coast is one of Africa’s biggest banana growers with approximately 280 000 tonnes of bananas produced in 2016, and output expected to almost double within two years. The country also exported 32 628 tonnes of mangoes over the 2016 season, which represents a 43.3% increase on the previous year. According to government spokesperson Bruno Nabagné Koné, mangoes have become the country’s third most exported fruit.

Controlled atmosphere
Although cold treatment remains the priority for South African exporters, in the West African market, controlled atmosphere (CA) — and also Daikin’s Active CA — is steadily gaining interest. While a relatively new innovation for the reefer industry, CA has a comparatively long history in land applications, and it is this technology that is enabling the carriage of new cargoes. CA technology effectively puts food and other sensitive perishable products in transit to sleep, slowing down the ageing process, and allows them to be transported in better condition for longer periods, extending their shelf life.

Refrigerated containers can preserve the transported goods during the entire shipment cycle. This opportunity is extending further with new advances such as CA. Using CA, it is now possible to transport leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits, regardless of respiration rate and voyage length.

Products from all over the African continent are in high demand globally. And as reefer container technology evolves, reliable reefer transportation provides both shippers and shipping lines the opportunity to provide new services and added value to their customers.


Click below to read the September/October 2017 issue of Cold Link Africa

CLA Sept-Oct 2017

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