Maximum freshness and the shortest packaging time possible are essential to meet demand in the EU and northern Europe. The importance of fresh vegetable production in the agriculture sector of the region of Murcia is well-known, as is the dependence of UK supermarkets on the arrival of fresh produce from the Costa Calida.
Spanish crop farmers are so aware of this that as much as 40 per cent of production is now packaged as soon as it is picked, on the fields themselves. Installations known as "horticultural platforms" are used in the picking and packaging of products such as lettuces, reducing the amount of handling they are subjected to, as well as the packaging time. This leads to a significant increase in quality and food safety and a decrease in the product’s carbon footprint, ensuring that demand is satisfied in northern European markets.
According to an article on murciatoday.com, these platforms, which are essentially small-scale mobile processing plants. are also used in the picking of vegetables like celery and kohlrabi. They are staffed by specialist pickers who are able to immediately identify those plants that meet the ruling quality criteria. The produce is then raised onto the platform for cleaning, selection, trimming and packaging, and at the end of the line the packaged goods are loaded onto refrigerated trucks and taken to the distribution centres.
There they are cooled further, palleted and prepared for despatch. taking to the roads as soon as possible after being picked and in many cases reaching the UK just 40 hours later.