Roses that spend weeks being shipped by sea transport can retain their quality just as well or even better than roses shipped as air freight. This has been demonstrated by intensive, repeated tests conducted on roses shipped from Kenya in air-conditioned reefer containers. The transport of roses to the Netherlands followed by days of export simulation and then flowering tests, were part of the GreenCHAINge project.
According to GreenCHAINge consortium, made up of trading companies and research institutions, they were satisfied with the results of the first sea transport of roses in 2014. The practical test involved transporting both large and small-flowered roses between the port cities of Mombasa and Antwerp. Conditions in the air-conditioned reefer containers (such as the required low temperature and relative humidity) were controlled remotely. After the 25-day transport, the roses were subjected to another 8 days of simulated conditions of export to various European destinations (two days of cold storage, two days in transport containers, and four days of retail outlet conditions) and finally a test for keeping quality in the vase. The average vase life for these roses was ten days which was not at all inferior to the roses transported as air freight in which, unlike sea transport, the temperature is often difficult to control.
‘The results were fantastic’, said Robbert van Willegen of GreenCHAINge and the manager of this project. ‘The sea transport of roses imported from distant locations or exported to distant destinations is not only less expensive but also much more environmentally friendly. It generates 87% less CO2 emissions than transport as air freight. We also transported all the varieties we loaded onto the ship onto an aircraft for the purpose of making a reliable comparison of keeping quality. Other kinds of practical tests will be conducted over the course of the year. In the upcoming months, other aspects involving the differences between transport modes will be investigated. Seasonal factors will also be examined.’
This project, which is being coordinated by the VGB, the branch organization for the wholesale floriculture sector, is focusing on transport by ship and rails instead of by air or road. Also involved are plant breeding companies (Plantum), growers and wholesalers (FleuraMetz, Dutch Flower Group and Hilverda de Boer). The project is being supported by Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research (WUR), the Kenyan Flower Council (KFC), FlowerWatch, and logistics services provider Maersk Line. GreenCHAINge is being subsidised by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs via the Topsector Tuinbouw programme, and by contributions from funds formed by traders and producers affiliated with Productschap Tuinbouw (PT).