Transport and care of fresh flowers
by Dave Marshall on May 30th
You may well have never heard of the 'cool chain' but you can rest assured that at some point in your life, you will have come across something that has been part of it. Whether you've eaten Spanish Strawberries, New Zealand Lamb or vegetables from South Africa, all of these are considered to be 'perishable goods' and therefore require a little bit of extra care and attention when they are being exported.
Though we might not consider flowers and plants to be perishable in the same way that food stuffs are, we know that cut flowers will continue to bloom but storing them in very low temperatures will slow down their physiological development significantly, which prolongs their life and keeps them fresher for longer.
The majority of the world's flowers come from Holland, auctioned at the famous Aalsmeer Auction before being rapidly transported to their new home. Brits spend approximately 1.5 billion pounds a year on cut flowers, with 85% of those imported from overseas. Our proximity to Holland means that flowers from the Aalsmeer Auction can arrive at their destination within hours if travelling via plane, however, the international market may require flowers to travel much further and this is where the 'cool chain' is really applied.
With the exception of tropical breeds, cut flowers and plants should be cooled rapidly to temperatures of around 33-35 F throughout their travelling time. Truck transport of flowers can be a preferable method because temperatures can be managed more easily and cost and environmental impact can be reduced. Inadequate pre-cooling and temperature fluctuations can result in condensation which in turn means that flowers are more vulnerable to the Botrytis infection, a vicious mould that will attack all breeds of flowers.
Unfortunately there are few regulations to determine exportation conditions, but the cool chain is a standard practise that most countries observe in order to obtain the best results from their flowers.
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