Hot Singapore's cool port of call for global perishable produce

Singapore's Coolport hub helping Aussie food exports grow


Agribusiness
Coolport operations manager, Perry Lim, with David Sackett, Growth Farms Australia and Steve Angwin, Warranella, Wagin, Western Australia inside one of 18 cool storage warehouses for temporary storage of transhipped perishables at Changi airport.

Coolport operations manager, Perry Lim, with David Sackett, Growth Farms Australia and Steve Angwin, Warranella, Wagin, Western Australia inside one of 18 cool storage warehouses for temporary storage of transhipped perishables at Changi airport.

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Farm product quality doesn't just need to be excellent in Australia, its integrity must hold up in overseas supply chains

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Getting Australian agricultural exports to feed fast expanding offshore markets won't just rely on smart farmers producing more food regardless of testing seasonal conditions - the pressure is on supply chain service providers, too.

In particular, as demand for fresh food sales to Asia rises to cash in on premium paying shoppers and restaurants, exporters must guarantee reliable and fast working cool storage networks are staying true to the production quality and food safety benchmarks set back in Australia.

In reality, it's not hard to find any number of buyers from China to Thailand, Korea or Malaysia seeking fresh Australian meat, milk, eggs, fruit or vegetables.

The real challenge is ensuring customers in Asia, or the Middle East the products they buy will not spoil in the tropical heat at an airport freight terminal, or be delayed on route by delivery trucks and handling systems with variable efficiency capabilities.

Think about how quickly a food safety food scare, or regulatory decision can backfire on your brand's credibility if products are managed poorly overseas - the implications can be crippling - Mark Bennett, ANZ Banking Group

"Product quality doesn't just need to be excellent in Australia, its integrity needs to hold up overseas," said ANZ agribusiness head Mark Bennett.

"It's an aspect to the food supply chain many Australian farmers and processors have not really had to think too much about until the past five to 10 years when we've seen a big surge of fresh product going via new market channels to destinations now taking more and more of what we produce.

Food credibility

"But when you think about how quickly a food safety food scare, or regulatory decision can backfire on your brand's credibility if products are managed poorly overseas, the implications can be crippling."

Mr Bennett has just led an agribusiness delegation of predominantly sheep producers and their bankers to Asia.

About 60 per cent of Australian sheep meat is now exported, with China by far the biggest buyer absorbing 30pc of our $1 billion mutton export trade last year plus record volumes of our $2.3b lamb export business.

A decade ago Australia's sheep meat export and domestic figures were reversed.

Most producers primarily focused on domestic customer expectations, relying on nearby supply networks to deliver to local processors and then retailers.

Now, aside from China, the Middle East and the USA, our big markets for sheep meat are also in South East Asia where demand is being driven by wealthier consumers seeking premium quality cuts, and Muslim consumers who traditionally include sheep meat in their diet.

"The task is no longer only about trucking livestock to saleyards or abattoir, or even the cold storage logistics required to get product to port - we must be confident in transporters, marketers and traders doing a good job thousands of kilometres away in a foreign marketplace," Mr Bennett said.

"What happens on route and how well our product is handled along the way is crucial.

"The consumer is paying based on a satisfaction level they have with Australian product and its reputation."

A cool free trade zone

As an indicator of just how sophisticated the global cold freight supply chain business is growing, Singapore's Changi airport opened 8000 square metres of cool storage space in 2010, in a designated free trade zone.

The SATS Coolport caters for food products, flowers and pharmaceuticals transshipped, or repacked, for distribution all over the world via about 57 flights a day.

Australian exports even arrive at Changi to eventually return to Australia as value-added food lines.

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ANZ agribusiness delegation visitors inspecting cool storage cargoes at Changi airport

ANZ agribusiness delegation visitors inspecting cool storage cargoes at Changi airport

The Changi Coolport can handle 250,000 tonnes of chilled air freight every year in four different temperature zones, from minus 28C to 18C.

It is Asia's first airport perishable handling and storage centre and the only Halal-certified air cargo hub for perishables in the Asia Pacific

Live food on the moved

The daily perishable cargo manifest includes live seafood and ornamental fish, fresh vegetables and fruit, dairy products, meat, flowers and a lot of pharmaceutical vaccines.

Vegetable volumes alone have increased by at least 50pc in the past eight years.

An automatic materials handling system makes the most efficient use of storage space, temperature and humidity monitoring and arrival and departure schedules.

It is helped by solar powered chilling systems for cargoes moving outside the cool rooms and more than 1000 cameras focused on all aspects of the busy logistics operation.

ANZ Banking Group's opportunity Asia sheep and wool delegation group from Australia.

ANZ Banking Group's opportunity Asia sheep and wool delegation group from Australia.

Mr Bennett observed the current rate of demand growth for Australia's perishable freight movements, including fresh milk, seafood and berry crops, meant constant consideration needed to be paid to the adequacy of cool store infrastructure within Australia.

In particular, the opportunities at regional airports such as Avalon, Canberra, or Toowoomba, which would ensure supply chain movements were not forced through bottlenecks at expensive major metropolitan airports.

However, it was also hard to expect infrastructure to be built in advance, before there was adequate capacity to make it worthwhile.

  • Andrew Marshall visited Singapore as a guest of ANZ Banking Group.
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The story Hot Singapore's cool port of call for global perishable produce first appeared on Farm Online.

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