A shortage of avocados? Schiphol to the rescue!
Avocados are an absolute must in any health-conscious home. This green fruit is full of vitamins and healthy fats and is extremely popular. And that's something that hasn't escaped our attention here at Schiphol either. You might not know this, but the Netherlands is the world's biggest importer of avocados by air! Almost 2.5 million kilos of this 'green gold' made its way here in 2017.
By land, sea and air
Most avocados are actually transported by sea. It takes about five to six weeks for them to reach the port of Rotterdam from countries like South Africa, Kenya and Chile. They are only shipped by air if there's a shortage of avocados in Europe – for example, when demand outstrips supply or if a storm has ruined avocado crops. At times like this, the fruit has to be shipped from a different country at very short notice. It takes just a day to transport it to the Netherlands by air, so you can go ahead and enjoy your avocado toast.
From the tree in South Africa to Schiphol
Avocados are picked when they are still firm. If you don't ship them until they're ready to eat, they'll be ready to be thrown away when they arrive at Schiphol. To slow down the ripening process, avocados need to be transported at a constant temperature of about two to three degrees centigrade. This means refrigerating a shipment when being transported by truck and making sure that the heating is on when transporting in an aircraft. After all, the temperature drops to about minus 50 degrees centigrade once an aircraft's high up in the air and a shipment of frozen avocados is something that we obviously want to avoid! The cargo handler collects the green fruit once it arrives at Schiphol. At the warehouse, which is situated near the airport, Customs checks that everything is in order, while the quality control bureau establishes whether the avocados are of the quality required. They are then ready to continue on their journey.
The mystery of ready-to-eat avocados
It seems like they're always either too hard or too ripe. Who doesn't give an avocado a squeeze before buying it, to make sure it's really ready to eat? To ensure that the avocados you buy really are ready to eat, shipments will often head off to a ripening facility after arriving at Schiphol. Once there, a special process is used to ripen the fruit further within 48 hours. It's important to make sure that the fruit doesn't ripen too much either, because it needs to pass through the distribution centre before continuing on its way to the supermarket. Another two days will have passed before avocados really make it to the shelves. Supermarkets also assume that avocados will be in the store for a day as well, where they will ripen even more. If you have bought a so-called ready-to-eat avocado and find that it's hard, you've probably got your hands on one from a very recent shipment. Our advice: wait another day before eating it.
That's how we at Schiphol make sure that supermarket shelves are restocked quickly following a shortage of avocados. You'll be adding them to smoothies or salads within a week of the fruit being picked off the tree in South Africa and, with a little bit of luck, they'll be ready to eat too.
This blog was produced in consultation with IPHandlers, which handles most of the avocados that arrive at Schiphol.