From Soil to Shelf
Aviation supports developing economies from Africa to Asia and Latin America. It is estimated, for example, that the United Kingdom supply chain alone supports up to 1.5 million livelihoods in air-freighted African agriculture and injects an estimated $320 million into rural economies in Africa each year.
The sustainability of this type of set-up was questioned a few years back by green organizations. They asked for food flown into countries to be spurned in favor of local produce. Studies for the “food miles” debate showed, however, that more efficient growing conditions in places such as Africa means food flown from there to Europe could often have a smaller carbon footprint despite the travel.
When the eruption of Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, closed down airspace in 2010, it is estimated that African economies lost $65 million in exports of time-sensitive, perishable goods. Aviation is vital to preserve the quality of fruit from the moment of harvest to the moment it is delivered to the customer, for example. With such a limited lifespan for fresh fruit, African farmers rely on logistics partners to get the fruit from the soil to the shelf as quickly as possible.
Blue Skies Ghana is a producer of quality fruit. Its CEO Anthony Pile, stresses that aviation is vital to the business. “We rely on airlines such as British Airways, KLM, and Emirates to deliver fruit salads from where they are prepared at source to leading retailers in Europe,” he says. “Aviation is important because we produce a highly perishable, value-added product that has a six-day shelf-life. Therefore, we are not able to use other modes of transport to get our products to market.”
Developing exports of value-added products is vital to the prospects of the Ghanaian economy. Blue Skies accounts for about 1% of Ghana’s total exports. “An increasing number of people are leaving agriculture for the cities to pursue jobs in government, banking and legal services but if Ghana is to prosper then it needs to generate industry by using the wealth of natural resources it has to make things that the world wants,” insists Pile. “It cannot only rely on its recent discovery of crude oil to achieve this.”