Contributing around 2.4 percent to annual GDP, and 10% of total export earnings, the agriculture sector is a key cog in the South African economy.
Packaging facilities where produce like fruits, meats, wine, corn and wool are manufactured and packed for export are subject to stringent safety standards and regulations.
They must also undergo regular inspections by auditing firms like Tesco (who regulate foods sold into the international retail sector) and BRC (responsible for much of the produce bound for Europe).
This is a critical step as the products used to clean the production line and packhouse equipment are the last thing that food comes into contact with before being palletized and sent abroad.
The last two years have prompted even more rigorous processes and protocols in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“For packhouse managers, the importance of partnering with experienced hygiene and sanitation specialists cannot be underestimated as these specialists ensure that compliance is strictly maintained, without placing further burden on the already over-stretched budgets of the country’s food producers,” says Emma Corder, Managing Director of industrial cleaning products manufacturer Industroclean.
Corder goes on to explain that the role of these specialists begins at the start of every season by performing site inspections and assessing the areas, staff and machinery and providing a detailed analysis of what chemicals, equipment and processes are needed in each area to ensure compliance with global hygiene and safety standards.
Key to this process is a comprehensive proposal which must include all aspects of the facility’s hygiene and cleansing needs: from industrial grade equipment cleansers, right down to basics like hand sanitiser, paper towels, washing powder and dishwashing liquid.
Developing a longer-term relationship between packhouse and sanitation services provider means that, over the seasons, cleaning procedures can be refined and budgets can be optimised through streamlined purchasing.
This can result in significant savings for packhouses who are able to determine in advance exactly what they need to buy, when and in what quantities. Payments and supplies can be made upfront annually, or seasonally, or can be staggered according to available budget throughout the year.
Sebastian Wolfaardt, of Ceres Cascade Farms believes that trust plays an important role in the partnership between packhouse and sanitation services provider and that choosing the right provider can have a significant impact on the business.
Their assistance to packhouses in maintaining high standards of hygiene between visits, and provide technical training on the correct way to use their products and machinery and having a partner that will make themselves available at short notice for emergencies or technical assistance is essential.
“Because sanitation requirements are unique to every sector, it is crucial that sanitation services partners possess sector-specific expertise and can provide support in solving specific cleaning challenges, such as stubborn grease on equipment in a large-scale butchery facility, or residual pesticide at a fruit-pack plant,” ends Corder.