Transport practices for banana
Transport of fresh products like bananas generally takes place in (refrigerated) trucks, reefer containers, or by plane. Checks and proper loading are always important to maintain good (temperature) conditions for the product during transport. For fresh products, refrigerated transport is often necessary. Trucks and reefers can maintain a low temperature, but do not have enough cooling capacity to quickly lower the product temperature. During transport and waiting periods, the load must be well covered to protect against dust, sun and rain. Careful driving and handling are essential to prevent damage to produce from mechanical actions.
Optimal transport conditions
Once harvested and packed, the bananas for export markets are quickly transported to the port in refrigerated trucks or reefer containers. Overseas transport of bananas mostly takes place in reefer containers, but also in conventional reefer vessels. During long-distance transport, bananas are kept in the green stage by using the right transport temperature and preventing ethylene. Bananas should preferably be well pre-cooled before entering the refrigerated truck or reefer. Controlled Atmosphere (CA) is used in addition for the longer distances. If transported under CA conditions, pre-cooling is a must.
Attention points during loading and transport of bananas
Bananas are mostly transported overseas. Photo by Al'fred/Shutterstock.com
LoadingBananas are mostly transported overseas in reefer containers, but also palletized in conventional reefer vessels (below deck). In reefer containers, with bottom-air delivery system, the cargo must be stacked in such a way to ensure good distribution of the temperature-controlled air. A solid block with only little space between the cartons and the reefer container wall avoids short–cycle airflows. Sponge foam blocks can be used to close gaps. Do not stow above the red line at the reefer wall.
Bananas in box with linerbag to maintain humid conditions. Photo by WUR
Temperature and humidityDuring long-distance transport, bananas must be kept in the pre-climacteric (green) stage. An optimal temperature is the first requirement. It is considered 13.3- 14.0 °C for Cavendish bananas. Storage at lower temperature can lead to big losses due to chilling injury. The optimum humidity in the container is 85 to 95%. Together with the packaging of bananas, this creates the desired high humidity around the bananas.
Box containing a polybag with bananas. This bag can be combined with CA-conditions.
O2 and CO2In addition to the right temperature, the storage life can be extended by altered O2 and CO2 concentrations. Optima are in the range 2-5% O2 and 2-5% CO2. These can be realized for instance by using “Banavac” modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) or by controlled atmosphere (CA) containers. Polybag/ Polypack packaging contains macro-perforations and can be combined with CA. Too low O2 or too high CO2 can lead to dull skin, off-flavours and undesirable texture.
Ethylene molecule formula. Photo by Danijela Maksimovic/Shutterstock.com
EthyleneEthylene can cause premature ripening during transport. Therefore, ventilation with fresh air takes place to remove ethylene. Bananas must not be shipped together with ethylene-producing fruit such as mangoes or melons. Ethylene produced from individual banana fingers, which begin to ripen or rot, can stimulate the ripening of other, still green, bananas in the same containter / cargo.
Temperature logger to monitor temperature in the chain. Photo by WUR.
MonitoringThe cold chain should not be broken, the product remains best in the set temperature range. Lower or higher temperatures can easily result in loss of quality. Good quality control in the banana supply chain includes temperature recording during transport. Temperature, humidity and ventilation are carefully monitored.
Unloading of boxes with bananas. Photo by On the road again/Shutterstock.com
UnloadingUpon arrival, the cargo is carefully unloaded to prevent handling damage. Bananas arrive at long-distance markets in the green, pre-climacteric stage. It is recommended to sample fruit for inspection at this time. Visual appearance of bananas, but also of packaging and pallets can be documented by means of photos. The pallets with bananas must be moved directly to a cold storage room. Controlled ripening will take place in the next phase of the supply chain.