The Logistics Journey of A South African Citrus Fruit

The Logistics Journey of A South African Citrus Fruit

Date: 18/06/2020

The citrus trade season in the UK runs every year from May to October, which see's thousands of lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruits come into the UK for the consumer market. London Gateway Port handles over 95% of the citrus trade from South Africa which arrives in temperature controlled refrigerated (reefer) containers.

As a deep-sea port with seamless connections to a pan-European and a global network, London Gateway's market- centric location close to London and the UK's largest distribution hubs, means fruit can get from ship to stores quicker to maintain freshness. As the chosen port for the majority of this trade, companies can also benefit from temperature controlled warehousing facilities at London Gateway's Logistic Park. Utilising a port- centric warehousing facility to ripen, control and pack perishable goods, like the citrus fruits, allows companies to reduce lead times and thereby increase the freshness and shelf life of the produce.

Like many other products, citrus fruit embarks on a long journey before they reach the consumer kitchen. Speed and freshness are key. Over the coming months we will share details of the typical logistics journey the citrus fruit takes from farming to supermarket. Keep watching this page for further details and information on how DP World London Gateway plays a vital part in this industry.


1. Fruit picked at source

Citrus fruit is one of the most popular and widely produced fruit types globally - they are highly nutritious to eat or to drink in juice form, together with citrus extracts being used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.

Based on production volumes, citrus fruit is the largest fruit industry in RSA (Republic South Africa), and is largely focussed on the export market. The South African citrus industry is the largest citrus exporter in the Southern Hemisphere and accounts for more than 60% of Southern Hemisphere citrus exports.

South Africa is expected to export a record 143.3 million cartons of citrus fruit to more than 100 countries in 2020, an approximate 13% increase from 2019.

Citrus fruit require warm subtropical temperatures which South Africa provides; the season starts with the harvesting of lemons and ends with harvesting oranges in September, which is by far South Africa’s biggest citrus type accounting for around 60% of exports.

Nigel Jenney, CEO Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) says:

"RSA are a key source of fresh produce to the UK and in these challenging times you might expect exports to be lower than normal. However, that’s not the case for citrus as we approach peak season volumes are well ahead. The determination and resilience shown from grower to shipper has been exemplary in meeting UK consumers increasing demand for great tasting citrus".

2. Fruit is packaged

South African citrus fruits are harvested and packed ready for loading to refrigerated containers (reefers) ready for export and loading to vessel.

The chilled fruits are packed into ventilated cartons on pallets allowing for correct stowage into the reefer.

Reefers are used for transporting temperature sensitive cargo at set temperatures whilst controlling fresh air circulation and ventilation which removes gases produced by the fruit. This allows the control of ripening and ageing keeping the cargo fresh and ready for retailer/supermarket deliveries for consumers.

Vessels currently arriving from South Africa into DP World London Gateway are discharging high volumes of reefer cargo full of delicious summer citrus fruits - limes, lemons and oranges for UK consumers to enjoy.

3. Fruit travel from South Africa to London Gateway

2020 is seeing record numbers of South African citrus fruit arriving at London Gateway after travelling up to 25 days from ports across South Africa. London Gateway Port receives vessels calling at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban: in a single week we can see as many as 1,700 reefer imports.

Temperature monitoring is undertaken by vessel crew.

(Transported between 3-4 port including shipping times:

Durban- London- 25 days

Port Elizabeth – London – 23 days

Cape Town – London – 19 days)

Port of London (PLA) Pilots play a key role in guiding and navigating vessels safely to their berthing destination, responsible for boarding large ships and guiding them into port. There are more than 14,000 pilotage acts on the Thames each year.

With the ship in place, London Gateway is the only port in the UK operating tandem lifts, with over 65% of our moves multi-lifting containers. We transfer containers using Automatic Stacking Cranes from ‘shipside’ to ‘landside’ for collection. This method creates some of the most efficient and consistent productivity levels throughout all UK port operations.


4. Arrive at London Gateway Port 

Reefer Technicians have hand held devices linked to our Port Systems to keep track of live reefers. Any deviation of set temperatures trigger an alert to our Team for review and any necessary action


5. Authority inspection

London Gateway Port Border Control Post (BCP) facility is a state of the art facility which is fully integrated with internal and external processes and systems. The facility has 22 inspection bays which are shared between Defra and Port Health Authority.

Containers selected for Defra inspection are transferred to the BCP dedicated Defra bays and pallets of South African citrus fruits are removed from reefer containers and a selection of the cargo required for inspection is presented to the Defra Inspectors for examination and clearance into the UK.

Defra examinations are undertaken on plants and plant materials that require plant health controls which ensure the fruit is free from disease and harmful pesticides together with checks on origin and grading.

London Gateway works with all the Authorities to maximise efficiencies to present, inspect and process cargo to enable onward movement into the UK Supply Chain.

6. London Gateway Logistics Park

By utilising the port-centric cold storage facilities at DP World London Gateway, fresh produce importers are able to process and pack their goods cheaper and more efficiently, leading to earlier deliveries to the retailer – this means fresher produce is available to the public and with a longer shelf life, which leads to a reduction in food waste at both business and consumer levels. A port-centric model also reduces road miles and therefore the produce’s carbon footprint versus transporting to/from the traditional fruit handling facilities in the UK.
 7. Reefer transport

Fruit is transported on reefer containers on trucks.
 8. In-store ready for consume

Citrus fruit arrives at independent retailers/supermarkets.