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Packinghouse Visits And Dinner Conversations

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 8, 2006

When I’m back in the US, I’ll write up a lot more about the specific experiences I’ve had in South Africa, especially my visits with many retailers, wholesale markets, exporters and packers. But as I prepare to leave, I wanted to mention two US brands I had occasion to visit yesterday.

Went to visit a citrus packinghouse here in South Africa to watch Sunkist fruit being packed for shipment to the Far East. It was an impressive presentation, as they used a selection process that pushed the quality of the fruit far past the Category 1 classification that is generally required for export fruit.

As befits a country with high unemployment, the packinghouse was much more labor-intensive than what I am used to seeing in the States or Europe, but it packed a great package. And the Sunkist brand was proudly labeled on the fruit and on the box. It was clearly identified as South African fruit, thus showing how reputable Sunkist is when many others use detachable stickers to identify country of origin in order to facilitate the black market in China. But these guys are 200% above board.

Also met with some great guys from Dole in South Africa. The Dole company down here is a subsidiary of Dole Europe and principally functions as a supply arm for the European company, though they also ship product to Asia, the Middle East and North America.

During dinner, we talked a lot about business while I had my Springbok carpaccio, but as the night grew late and the wine flowed, we also talked about South Africa and America. They tried to help me understand the secrets of Africa, and I tried to help them understand America. I left understanding much more, hoping I had taught them a little, and certain I had made new friendships that I would treasure for many years to come.

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