Should Airfreighted Fresh Produce be banned in Europe ?

On Tuesday, 30th April, COLEAD, together with other partners, organized a Zoom meeting for HortiFresh members and other sector players to assess the impact of airfreighted fresh produce from developing countries and discuss whether airfreighted fresh produce should be banned.

The debate targeted retailers, fresh produce businesses (growers, exporters, importers), NGOs, and policymakers to better shape the outcomes. It is important to note that international trade worldwide relies heavily on the most reliable forms of transport. Airfreight has long been a leading contender, allowing traders to reach distant markets quickly with reduced risk of damage. However, growing concerns over carbon emissions and businesses striving for more sustainable logistics have brought the industry under scrutiny. Recent research has shown that aviation accounts for as much as 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to Radius Logistics.

The discussion was well-received, with participants articulating their ideas and acknowledging that while alternatives to airfreight are necessary, many procedures and factors need to be addressed for this to be feasible.

Clement Fulezi from Kenya emphasized that the fresh fruits and vegetables sector is crucial as it contributes significantly to government revenue in developing countries. He noted that sea freight is a capital-intensive venture and affects crops with short shelf lives. Fulezi suggested that the world needs to invest more in climate change initiatives and other mitigation measures rather than focusing solely on banning airfreighted produce.

It was proposed that the conversation should not only focus on climate change but also consider the social well-being of people dependent on the industry since shifting from air to sea freight is not an overnight decision.

It was further highlighted that banning airfreight will not completely stop emissions since airlines will continue to fly, emitting gases even without transporting fresh fruits and vegetables. Therefore, different interventions are needed.

Most export dealers in fresh produce use airfreight to transport their goods to destination markets to retain freshness, given the short shelf life of many products. Much still needs to be done to find alternative transport methods if a ban on airfreighted produce is to be adopted.


Richard Ssebulime



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