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Frankfurt’s perishable centre aims to take on the might of Amsterdam Schiphol in the flower sector as shippers increasingly buy flowers direct from source.

While the Aalsmeer flower auction has long put Amsterdam top of the league in flower imports, a changing shipper business model, which is seeing more retailers buy direct from the grower, could open up opportunities for other airports in Europe.

“We see an opportunity to take some of the business which is no longer going through the auction,” Oliver Blum, head of Lufthansa Cargo’s perishable team, told The Coolstar. “We are only expecting to see volumes this year go up by about 2,000 tonnes, from 60,000, but there will be more growth.”

The perishables centre, which claims to be rivalled only by those in Cairo, Nairobi  and Miami, is investing – along with Lufthansa Cargo – €500,000 in a vacuum cooler this year to help boost its flower business. Vacuum coolers reduce pressure so that water starts boiling at 2°C. The boiling process takes heat out of the product so it can be cooled to 1°C or 2°C within 20 to 30 minutes.

“We are buying one this year, but if it brings in business we will definitely look to getting a second,” said Mr Blum.

The centre is working in partnership with the Cool Chain Group, a specialist supply chain management company, for onward refrigerated distribution throughout Europe.

Mr Blum maintained that Frankfurt’s facilities were unique in Europe, with several different areas, all kept at different temperatures. With the relevant authorities on site, and a consultancy arm, Mr Blum said transit times had been cut by up to half, to about four or five hours. “Having the authorities here has made the process better for customers,” he said. “We can offer a premium service.”

Currently some 20% of volumes passing through Frankfurt’s perishable centre comprise of flowers, with 48% made up of fruit and vegetables, 5% meat, and the remainder being pharmaceuticals and ‘other’ goods – including, at one point, a whole frozen crocodile.

About 70% of the shipments at the centre are transit traffic, with just 5% exports, (mainly peppers and tomatoes), and 25% imports. Colombian roses are popular with Russians, added Mr Blum. “They pay big money for them.”

On The Coolstar‘s visit, live lobsters sat by tuna, dourade, and shellfish, while in the meat room Australian lamb jostled for space with Argentine beef.

The majority of perishables arrive by freighter, which are parked against one wall of the centre for speedy processing.
The centre has three shareholders – the Nagel Group, with 50%, LUG with 30% and Fraport holds the remaining 10%. Lufthansa accounts for about 55% of the volumes at the centre, which employs some 120 staff.

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