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How to Select a Freight Forwarder for Shipping Perishables

shipping perishables

When it comes to importing and exporting perishables—from fruits and vegetables to seafood and live plants—maintaining the cold chain across borders is a tall order. The U.S. market for fresh-cut fruits and veggies, for example, is estimated at about $27 billion with continued increases in sales, according to data prepared for the Produce Marketing Association.

U.S. sales of all produce will only surge as “fresh” and “sustainable” supports consumers’ concern for their health and tastes. It’s not all about local produce given consumer desire for flavor diversity and produce variety, which relies on growers and producers in Mexico, Jamaica and Guyana, among other countries throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America.

Foodservice companies, grocers and other retailers as well as distributors have to manage their portion of the supply chain involving transporting and handling of temperature-sensitive items. But perhaps the biggest accountability rests with the freight forwarder and 3PL which, in turn, rely on their air and ground carriers to maintain temperature of perishables.

When selecting a forwarder or 3PL for your cold chain and perishable international shipments, consider these factors:

  • How will my perishable shipments be stored and transferred?

Ask your forwarder or 3PL about storage, handling and transfers. What handling procedures are in place for airport-to-airport services to ensure product quality and cool-chain integrity? Do they have relationships with trusted agents and airlines in the source country, in close proximity to the producer/farm and at destination?

For instance, within Mexico, cold storage infrastructure isn’t robust with primarily only large Mexican logistics companies and big retailers having the deepest capabilities. This means you need a forwarder or agent with the resources and relationships there to ensure the handling and transport of your cold chain shipments at safe temperatures. Is there pre-cooling of goods available as needed? Will active cooling containers be provided to maintain temperatures during transit and storage?

Miami is a leading hub and transfer center for perishable imports and exports worldwide. At Miami International Airport, Amerijet offers comprehensive export and import facilities. The Amerijet custom-built 10,300 square-foot cooling facility is designed to maintain the cool chain integrity of perishables during the transportation process, handling great volumes of fruits, veggies, fish, foodstuffs and live plants. Goods transit from the facility through the Miami airport worldwide, or are trucked to other U.S. points.

Many Amerijet handling facilities, such as those in Mexico, have coolers available. Amerijet’s international offices closely coordinate with its forwarder customers and consignees to receive the perishable shipment immediately following its off-loading and clearance.

  • What are the technology and reporting capabilities of your agents and carriers?

Ask the forwarder about their capabilities to provide automated shipment information. In cold chain transportation, it’s imperative to be able to pinpoint where the shipment is in the transit process, including the clearance and last mile segments. How will I know the shipment arrived at the airport or at the destination on time? How is the cool chain ensured at origin or pick up?

In addition to communicating closely with its forwarder customers and agents worldwide, Amerijet builds long term partnerships with its customers to provide solutions and tailored services to ensure product quality from beginning to end. With Amerijet’s online tracking and automated POD status updates, shippers have complete visibility of their shipments.

  • What are the last-mile capabilities of your agents and carriers?

Your export perishables need to arrive in good condition at the proper temperature at your customer’s facilities and distribution centers. Ask the forwarder about their preferred airline and last-mile delivery capabilities at destination. Again, the responsibility rests with the forwarder and in turn, their agents and carriers to ensure precious cargoes stay with the required temperature range.

From bananas and breadfruit to tilapia and yucca plants, Amerijet has more than 40 years of experience in handling and transporting perishables. The carrier provides all-cargo scheduled and charter air service to destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America.

Learn more about Amerijet perishable shipping.