Feb 12, 2024
Perishable exports from Latin America are a big part of business for Air Canada Cargo, with fresh flowers making up a significant part of their overall volume on freighter flights from Quito and Bogota.
These volumes, which flow into the airline’s global network, peak during special occasions and seasonal celebrations such as Saint’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day, with the demand sometimes even requiring additional temporary capacity and on-demand flights to handle the volume.
“We help bring flowers to the world, exporting fresh flowers primarily from key flower producing regions in South America, such as Ecuador and Colombia, as well as the Netherlands, and transporting them to various destinations across our global network from the Americas and Europe to points in Asia,” Matthieu Casey, Managing Director – Commercial, Air Canada Cargo, stated.
As perishables with a limited shelf life, speed to market and maintaining temperature-control throughout their journey is crucial to ensure freshness upon arrival. The more delicate variations can be challenging as they are prone to wilting or damage, so the packaging and handling of these delicate blooms are important. In addition, customs requirements differ across the world in terms of complexity and regulations, as countries have strict protections in place for importing plants.
“Our state-of-the-art cold chain facility in Toronto plays an integral part in our flower shipments by providing temperature-controlled transit storage to maintain optimal conditions on their journey through our network,” Casey stated.
Packaging plays an invaluable role in helping to preserve the integrity of blooms during transportation and ensures that they arrive at their destination in the best possible quality.
“Not only does packaging protect the flowers from physical damage, temperature fluctuations and dehydration, but it also helps to prevent the spread of pests or diseases from one country to another. All of this is critical to ensuring the freshness of the final sale of the product,” Casey explained.
Sustainability takes root
A trend seen in the flower transportation sector is an increased focus on green credentials – an overall shift across the entire airfreight industry. Air Canada’s customers have an increased interest in seeing evidence of sustainability efforts, with the airline’s Environmental Affairs group always looking for ways to mitigate its environmental footprint.
In defining its pathway to net zero, Air Canada has set absolute mid-term greenhouse gas (GHG) net reduction targets for 2030. These targets include a 20% GHG net reduction from its air operations, a 30% GHG net reduction from ground operations, and a $50 million investment fund in low-carbon technologies to accelerate decarbonisation.
“We have made strides in converting a number of our operational vehicles to electric, adopting more sustainable packaging materials, and creating more efficient processes,” Casey said. ”In addition to facilitating the purchase of millions of litres of Sustainable Aviation Fuel for some of Air Canada Cargo’s largest global customers, Air Canada is committed to continue to leave less and do more and to working towards its ambitious goal of net-zero emissions from all global operations by 2050.”
For Air Canada Cargo, flower and perishable shipment volumes are back to pre-pandemic levels, having rebounded strongly in production and demand as the world has returned to in-person celebrations and events, driving the overall demand for perishables and flowers, especially during traditional floral gifting holidays.
“The global flower market will only continue to grow and, as a result, become more competitive,” Casey stated.
As more competitors enter the market, technology will continue to play a critical role in enhancing the efficiency of operations, especially when it comes to handling time and temperature-sensitive product such as flowers.
Data loggers are becoming increasingly important when it comes to visibility and transparency in transportation of perishables.
“In 2024, we will continue our digitisation journey with multiple foundational projects in progress that will allow us to better streamline our business, such as tracking technology, data sharing, real-time status notifications, and more,” Casey outlined.
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Author: Edward Hardy