Establishing and preserving the cold chain

The cooling function of the facility is vital to the quality and potential returns that the fruit can earn within the market. Effective precooling of the fruit as soon as we receive it is what establishes the cold chain and prepares the product for the shipping process and extended shelf life required to transport the fruit to export markets. Performing this task effectively is central to the success of our grape industry. Preserving the quality of the fruit is our mission but we also need to be able to accept and cool the huge volumes that we receive effectively.

Prepared for all intake and storage contingencies 


Hexkoel has no control or expectation of the volumes received by the facility per day during the harvest. When the weather is particularly hot during the early part of the harvest, many of the varieties ripen together and as a result, Hexkoel experiences some weeks with huge intake peaks. Rain during the harvest also plays havoc with intakes as growers stop harvesting and intake slow for a short while and then increase sharply soon afterwards. When wind speeds in the Port of Cape Town are too high to load vessels, dispatch of fruit to the port is delayed and the facility needs to be prepared to store these volumes while still receiving peak deliveries. These and other unforeseen factors make it virtually impossible to plan with regards to intake and storage volumes.

Providing pre-cooling and storage facilities 


Hexkoel was designed and established primarily as a transit cooling facility to cool the members’ grapes prior to shipment. Over time, Hexkoel has also evolved into a precooling and cold storage facility. The cooling process for the grapes takes three days and once the grapes have reached the ideal storage temperature, the facility then also provides a storage function.  Over time Hexkoel’s function has changed considerably and today the facility stores considerably more stock than previously, and a large percentage of the grapes are stored for extended periods.

During the last three years, Hexkoel has spent R60 million on increasing the storage capacity by about 5 000 pallets. Despite this, during peak weeks Hexkoel is occasionally still short of storage space.

Adapting to changing production trends


Over the past two decades, the trend in production timing has shown that the grape harvest has moved earlier as growers have been guided by market demands and are planting earlier varieties. This has also affected the timing and tempo of the harvest and Hexkoel has coped with significant increases in delivery volumes during peak intake weeks. These changes on the production side of the industry also extend to the logistics facilities in the supply chain to include the road transport service providers, cold storage in the port and shipping availability.

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