Global jet freighter operator DHL is well known for its swiftly transported and delivered e-commerce loads but the visually distinctive golden-yellow aircraft fly a large network of perishable cargo routes linking Latin America to the world.
Nimble DHL, for example, with no passenger loads to limit weight and time, hauls northbound a variety of perishable commodities from San Jose, Costa Rica, including wild fish, farm fish, Tilapia (yet another breed of fish), fresh and tropical flowers, pineapples, ornamental plants year-round and a seasonal exotic plant called Rambutam.
From Honduras, Tilapian and okra are shipped year-round north to the U.S with some commodities like fruits, ornamental plants, vegetables, fresh fish, and other seafood moving from Guatemala and Panama City to the U.S., Constanza Gantes, a DHL spokesperson based in Santiago, Chile, told the American Journal of Transportation (AJOT).
It is difficult to keep up with year-round and seasonal perishable growing, harvesting, and shipping because of overlap. “Pineapples and flowers are year-round presents, but they have special peak seasons,” adds Gantes. Importers and shippers have to stay nimble,
DHL exports pineapples from Latin America to Europe at the end of November and flowers to the U.S. for Valentine’s and Mother’s days with a “small peak for Thanksgiving and All Saints Day, she said. “However, selling seasons have been impacted due to climate effects that change farm production,” Gantes noted.
The airline has numerous cooling facilities for perishable commodities at U.S. airports. Miami is the main airport for DHL’s LATAM perishable exports. “Our core carriers have very good cool room facilities that allow cold chain protection averaging 2.8 and 15 to 25 Celsius,” said the spokesperson who added that Atlanta and Los Angeles International airports also have “good facilities” with substantial airline pallet storage positions.
DHL Global Forwarding in Miami also has “special facilities” for pharma products and one can handle up to 135 pallet positions, Gantes notes.
As for special or promotional programs for perishables, the Santiago, Chile-based spokesperson insists the DHL Global Forwarding unit has “special agreements with all carriers in the market and we have the most qualified and experienced people handling perishables in the airfreight industry,” She emphasizes that DHL provides “customized and charter solutions” during peak season.
Global flexibility includes multiple destination options for Latin American perishables on either its freighters or on passenger airlines that include Amsterdam, Madrid and Paris, Frankfurt, and Switzerland to far-flung markets in Asia and the Mideast. Said Gantes, “We can also offer customers solutions using our Panama Gateway to all possible destinations, again including the Mideast.”
Meantime, the DHL official expects post-COVID pandemic perishables travel to “remain constant in 2023” and stay there unless okra demand suddenly spurs. “Okra is increasing as demand from the EU is on the rise.”
However, global demand for perishable commodities is “getting stable and capacities are currently being opened and the (air freight) rates are trending a bit downward,” she said. Still, the “current situation with the Ukraine-Russian conflict is impacting jet fuel prices and that is still putting pressure on air freight rates.”