Improved Packaging of fruits and vegetables for Exports

Dr. Jagot Chand Malaker: Bangladesh enjoys a rich diversity of horticultural crops covering huge groups of fruits and vegetables. This is possible because of the enormous biodiversity, agro-climatic variations, fertile soil, a large cultivable area and a long history of crop husbandry. Fruits and vegetables have a high-water amount ranging from 70-95%. They dry quickly under any normal atmospheric condition. These causes loss of rigidity and shrinkage of the cells cause wilting and shriveling. Appropriate packaging ensures prolonged the shelf life of fruit and vegetables by preventing moisture loss and thereby wilting.

Horticultural products are very easily affected by climatic conditions, distribution hazards and microbial decay  due to  highly perishable  in nature. In order to develop a Suitable package for horticultural produce, it is important to understand the biology of the produce. For human nutrition and health, fruit and vegetables play an vital role and always high on the list of consumer priorities. However, short shelf life, leading to quick degeneration and decomposition of the product and undesirable look and negative palatability is the major  obstacle of purchasing ready-to-eat fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables are living products undertaking a ripening and plant tissue is broken down at the end of ageing processes. After harvest of products various biological processes continue i.e. respiration and ethylene production etc. It is essential to minimize damage to fresh produce in order to obtain optimal shelf-life. The main problem of spoilage in fruit and vegetables caused by the microorganism such as molds, yeasts and bacteria. These organisms can cause destruction and deteriorate the quality of fruit and vegetables.

Bangladesh’s Position in the world ranking
3rd in Rice Production ,1st in Jute Export, 3rd in Vegetable Production, 3rd in  Onion Production, 4th in Tea Production, 8th in Potato Production, 7th  in  Mango Production, 8th in Guava Production,28th in Fruit Production,1st in  Crop Variety

Therefore, careful handling and packaging are very necessary in the  preservation  of  fruit  and  vegetables  for  their  freshness  and  quality.  Proper packaging is essential for increasing the shelf life of fruits and  vegetables. Package is an object. A physical form that is intended to contain,  protect/preserve; aid in safe, efficient transport and distribution; and lastly  act to inform and motivate a purchase decision on the part of a  consumer.  Simple examples of package: boxes on the grocer's shelf and wrapper on a  candy bar. Packaging is the act of making or producing a  package.  

Packaging a coordinated system of preparing goods for a) Transport, b)  Distribution, c) Storage, d) Retailing and e) Use.

Packaging machines, e.g. Fillers, counters, cappers, labelers, wrapping  equipment, cartoners, case loaders and sealers. The meaning of packaging  is using something that can cover, protect, deliver, and display the finished  goods and services. Packaging is a crucial part of all food  processing  operations and it is integral to the operation itself.  An ideal packaging  consists of six elements i.e.

1. Uniqueness: unique is material and designs are different from other  brand’s packaging.
2. Coherence: coherence is related to the communication of a brand.
3. Distinctiveness: a brand easy to recognize called as distinctiveness.
4. Relevance: Relevance is whether the product accomplishes the customer needs, the product package signals the attraction of the brand.
5. Protectiveness: Protectiveness is that the packaging has to ensure products are safely wrapped before sale.
6. Market appeal: company brand image and boost their sales can be improved by package design.

Horticultural products are very easily affected by climatic conditions, distribution hazards and microbial decay  due to  highly perishable  in nature.  In order to develop a Suitable package for horticultural produce, it is important to understand the biology of the produce. This Creates a special  problem with the storage and packaging of fresh produce. While  developing  a  packaging  system,  following  product  characteristics  have  to  be Considered.

Respiration: As earlier discussed, fresh produce respires even after harvesting. During respiration process, oxygen is used and CO2 is released.  
Moisture:  Fruits and vegetables have very amount of water content, i.e. 70 to 95%. Under environmental conditions, rapid drying of the produc t causing wilting, shriveling and loss of rigidity due to loss of moisture.  

Flexible packaging is defined as any package or any part of a package whose  shape can be readily changed. For the production of flexible  packaging uses  non rigid structure that i.e. plastics and other flexible materials in form of  row material. Flexible packages are used for consumer,  institutional  products  and in industrial applications, to protect, market and distribute a  vast array of products. They acquire less space as  compared  to a rigid type  of packaging materials.

• Lower weight, resulting in savings of up to 40% in transport and  distribution  costs.
• Lower production costs using less energy.
• Tough, unbreakable and easy to seal.
•  Very good barrier properties.
•  Precisely moulded into a wider range of shapes than glass or metal  containers.

Rigid containers during shipping, containers must protect the contents from  physical damage  during  transport  and  distribution  which  may be  rough  and unsympathetic  to quality maintenance. They are commonly fabricated from wood, plastic, metal or card- board and come in the form  of crates, barrels, drums and sacks for ultimate transport in shipping containers.

Active packaging: Active packaging is an emerging and exciting area of food technology that  is  developing  owing  to  advances  in  packaging  technology,  material  science, biotechnology and new consumer demands.  Active packaging actively adds antimicrobial, ant oxidative or  other  quality  improving  agents, e.g.  flavour enhancing substances, via packaging materials into the packed food in small amounts during storage.

Edible films and coatings are biopolymer-based materials that have long  been  used for maintaining quality and prolonging shelf life of fresh produce.  Many  fruits such as citrus, cucumbers, and tomatoes are commonly coated  before  marketing. Edible films and coatings provide a number of functions  for fruits  and vegetables, such as preventing or reducing moisture loss and  controlling  gas exchange. Loss of moisture is one of the main problems  during storage  of fruits and vegetables, primarily resulting in weight loss,  wilting and  shriveling. Furthermore, edible  coatings can  be  used  as  carriers  for  active  substances,  such  as  antimicrobials, antioxidants and  browning  agents, colorants and flavours for improving quality and safety.  Coatings can  be applied to the product surfaces by dipping, spraying, or  brushing. Edible  films can be produced separately by wet or dry process.

Biodegradable packaging: Biodegradation is the process by which carbon-containing chemical compounds  are decomposed in the presence of  enzymes secreted by living organisms.

Exportable items to UK& EU countries
Fresh vegetables, fruits and frozen items (Ready made bread/rooti, different  types of cakes, somocha, singara, green mango, jute leaves, processed food  items (puffed rice, chips, candy, mango bar, fruit juice and spices.

Establish more packaging houses to ensure proper packaging for riskless  export of agro products to UK and Europe without damage. Here private  sector should come forward.  Africa is exporting agro product in UK marker. If Africa can export to UK market hope we can exports our agro  products with maintaining proper packaging systems if we have a proper international standard certification systems (Laboratory), cool chain  maintain at all level. Now many Agro products including fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen food items, spices, aromatic rice, dry foods, stuff,  flowers, seeds, live trees, etc are exporting.


During the production period of  vegetables and  fruits due to low  market price and lack of well  communicated transport facilities  and cool storage  facilities, huge amounts fresh vegetables are  damaged. So attention should be  given to save  fresh vegetables fruits  for exports with proper  packaging  and value addition. So process and  packaging industry should be  developed and also  create the  export opportunity of different fresh  vegetables, fruits and frozen items  (Ready made  bread/ rooti, different  types of cakes, somocha,  singara,  green mango, jute leaves,  processed  food  items (puffed rice,  chips, candy, mango bar,  fruit juice,  spices from Bangladesh and  Netherland  can re-export these  items to different countries of  EU  and UK.

Loss of moisture is one of the main problems  during  storage and time of exports of fruits and   vegetables, primarily resulting in weight loss,  wilting and shriveling. Furthermore, edible coatings  can  be  used  as  carriers  for  active  substances,  such  as antimicrobials, antioxidants and browning   agents,  colorants and flavours for improving  quality  and safety. Proper packagings can safe  fruits and  vegetables during exports.
Writer: Dr. Jagot Chand Malaker
Project Director
Up gradation of Existing Plant Quarantine Laboratory at Central Packing House to International Standard Project. Department of Agricultural Extension, Farmgate, Dhaka 1215, Bangladesh.